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What Eats Sea Turtles?

Due to their shells and large sizes, adult sea turtles have very few predators.

They are also pretty quick, being able to reach speeds of 22 miles per hour. These adaptations protect them from most predators even though they are unable to withdraw into their shells.

However, young sea turtles and the eggs of sea turtles have several predators. So what eats sea turtles?

Some common animals that prey on sea turtles include dogs, raptors, gulls, and rats. These animals eat the juveniles and the eggs.

Some animals capable of eating adults or subadults include crocodiles, sharks, and of course humans.

Table of Contents

1. List of Animals That Eat Sea Turtles
2. FAQ
3. Conclusion

Animals Known to Eat Sea Turtles

Here is a comprehensive list of animals known to eat sea turtles.

What Eats Hawksbill Sea Turtles?

Hawksbill Sea Turtle swimming in the clear blue ocean
Hawksbill Sea Turtle swimming in the clear blue ocean.

Eretmochelys imbricata, also known as the hawksbill sea turtle, is a critically endangered sea turtle species that can be found mainly in the tropics. It can be found in the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.

This chelonian is known as the hawksbill because of the shape of its head and its mouth. The V-shaped head of this chelonian looks similar to a hawk’s bill.

These turtles occur in about 70 countries although in low densities in most of the countries. These turtles are circumglobal and are known to travel over long distances.

Hawksbills are primarily spongivorous when in the Caribbean. They even feed on sponges that are toxic to other animals. In Australia, they eat a lot of algae. They are also more omnivorous in the Indo-Pacific.

The animals known to eat adult hawksbills are octopi (animals that belong to the order Octopoda) in particular the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), large fish, estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), requiem sharks (Carcharhinus), and humans (Homo sapiens).

The animals known to eat hawksbill eggs include humans (Homo sapiens), rats (Rattus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris).

Hatchlings are eaten in large numbers by crabs such as the ghost crabs (Ocypode) and gulls (Larus) as they rush from their nests to the ocean. Other animals that eat the hatchlings include octopus (O. vulgaris), dogs (C. l. familiaris), crocodiles (C. porosus), groupers (Epinephelus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), rats (Rattus), and sharks (Carcharhinus & G. cuvier).

What Eats Kemp Ridley Sea Turtles?

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle swimming near the sandy bottom of the ocean
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle swimming near the sandy bottom of the ocean.

Lepidochelys kempii, also known as the Kemp’s Ridley, is a critically endangered sea turtle species that can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. The species has one of the most restricted geographic ranges for a sea turtle, rivaled only by the  Flatback.

The species can be found along the Atlantic coast of North America from Maine in the United States to Yucatán in Mexico. It is found in the Gulf of Mexico. It has however also been spotted on rare occasions along the Atlantic coasts of Canada, Europe, Madeira, the Azores, Bermuda, and the Mediterranean Sea.

L.s kempii is an omnivore and feeds on jellyfish, shrimp, mollusks, floating crabs, algae, and vegetation. The animals known to eat adult Kemp’s Ridley turtles are tiger sharks (G. cuvier), killer whales (O. orca), and humans.

Almost all the eggs are laid in a 30 km stretch of beach in and around Playa de Rancho Nuevo found in Tamaulipas, a state in Mexico. Here, humans (Homo sapiens) collect the eggs. Raccoons (P. lotor), and dogs (C. l. familiaris) are also known to eat eggs.

Several animals eat the hatchlings. Known predators of the hatchlings include tiger sharks (G. cuvier), sea birds such as gulls (Larus) & herons (Ardeidae), raccoons (P. lotor), killer whales (O. orca), and humans.

What Eats Olive Ridley Sea Turtles?

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle up close in the water
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle up close in the water.

Lepidochelys olivacea, also known as the Olive Ridley, can be found in the tropical waters of the world. This species can be found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Interestingly, this species is absent from the Gulf of Mexico. This species is known to nest in almost 60 countries.

The species is usually found within the latitudes 40 degrees North and 40 degrees South. In North America, Olive Ridley can be found in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of California.

Olive Ridley is usually found within 15 km of the shore. From here, they feed and bask. L. olivacea is primarily a carnivore and feeds on jellyfish, shrimp, mollusks, and crabs.

Unfortunately,  Olive Ridley tends to ingest trash including styrofoam and plastic. Olive Ridley is also known to eat other turtles including Olive Ridley.

Some animals known to eat adult Olive Ridley turtles are requiem sharks (Carcharhinus), tiger sharks (G. cuvier), killer whales (O. orca), and humans.

Humans (Homo sapiens) collect and consume a large number of Olive Ridley eggs. In fact, one of the main threats to the wild populations of Olive Ridley is human consumption and collection of their eggs.

In addition to humans, raccoons (P. lotor), rats (Rattus), and dogs (C. l. familiaris) all eat their eggs.

Many animals eat hatchlings of Olive Ridley including adults and subadults Olive Ridley. Some of the predators of the hatchlings are requiem sharks (Carcharhinus), tiger sharks (G. cuvier), sea birds such as gulls (Larus) & herons (Ardeidae), raccoons (P. lotor), killer whales (O. orca), and humans. 

What Eats Leatherback Sea Turtles?

Leatherback Sea Turtle beached a little after sunset
Leatherback Sea Turtle beached a little after sunset.

Dermochelys coriacea, also known as leatherback, can be found in the tropical, subtropical, and subarctic waters of the world.

This is the only sea turtle that lives in subarctic waters as far north as Labrador, and Nova Scotia. This species can live in cold waters because of special adaptations including thick insulating layers of fat as well as a vast network of blood vessels that helps to turtle maintain body heat.

The leatherback gets its common name from its leathery shell. Unlike the other sea turtles, the leatherback has a leathery shell instead of a bony shell.

Unlike other turtles, the leatherback is oceanic and is known to deep dive.

D. coriacea is primarily a carnivore and feeds mostly on jellyfish and salps.  Other animals that the leatherback eats include snails, sea urchins, and cephalopods.

Because of the large and physical nature of the adult leatherback, it has almost no predators. The predators that can attack and prey on adult leatherbacks include large sharks such as the great white (Carcharodon carcharias), requiem sharks (Carcharhinus) & tiger sharks (G. cuvier); killer whales (O. orca), and humans. Jaguars (Panthera onca) are also known to attack nesting females while they are on land.

Several animals eat hatchlings of leatherbacks some of these are raptors (Falconiformes), gulls (Larus), and frigate birds (Fregatidae).

Many animals are known to feed on the eggs of leatherbacks. Some of these include turnstones (Arenaria), raccoons (P. lotor), plovers (Pluvialis), coatis (Nasua), pigs & hogs (Suidae), dogs (C. l. familiaris), monitor lizards (Varanus), genets (Genetta), mongooses (Herpestidae), ghost crabs (Ocypode), and knots (Calidris canutus).

What Eats Loggerhead Sea Turtles?

Loggerhead Sea Turtle gliding through the water
Loggerhead Sea Turtle gliding through the water.

Caretta caretta, also known as loggerhead, can be found globally specifically in temperate and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea. The loggerhead can be found in tropical waters but in limited numbers.

While juveniles drift in warm ocean currents, subadults and adults are often found in coastal waters. You can come across loggerhead turtles in coral reefs, lagoons, and the mouths of rivers.

The loggerhead gets its common name from its large head. Although the leatherback is the largest sea turtle, the loggerhead is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle.

is primarily a carnivore. Unlike other sea turtle species, loggerhead prefers hard-shelled fish and prey such as conchs, whelks, barnacles, bivalves, and horseshoe crabs.

The powerful jaws of the loggerhead make quick work of the tough shells of these animals. Loggerhead is also known to feed on jellyfish, sponges, fish, fish eggs, sea urchins, aquatic insects, cephalopods, and shrimps.

As a massive reptile with a hard shell, the adult loggerhead has almost no predators. Apart from humans, the only other animals known to eat adult loggerheads are sharks. The eggs of the loggerhead are known to be eaten by humans who collect the eggs in large quantities; pigs & hogs (Suidae); raccoons (P. lotor) and dogs (C. l. familiarise).

Many animals eat loggerhead hatchlings. This comes as no surprise as loggerhead hatchlings are helpless and defensively unlike the subadults and adults.

The animals that eat the hatchlings include Ants (Formicidae), ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii), pigs & hogs (Suidae), humans, honey badgers (Mellivora capensis), frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), cats (Felis), skunks (Mephitis), side-striped jackals (Canis adustus), sharks (Chondrichthyes), dogs, crows (Corvus), crabs (Decapoda), lynxes & bobcats (Lynx), bears (Ursus), armadillos (Dasypodidae), seagulls (Larus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), rats, raccoons (P. lotor), and opossums (Didelphis).

What Eats Green Sea Turtles?

Green Sea Turtle swimming low by coral
Green Sea Turtle swimming low by coral.

Chelonia mydas, also known as the green sea turtle, is an endangered sea turtle species. This species has the most widespread distribution of all the listed sea turtles.

This species is known to nest in more than 140 countries. It can be found in the pacific ocean, mediterranean sea, Indian Ocean, and Atlantic ocean.

The species can be found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the world. The species is found within the latitudes 40 degrees North and 40 degrees South.

These turtles are circumglobal and are known to travel over long distances as gathered through radio tagging nesting females.

Green turtles are omnivorous and feed on marine invertebrates, sea hare eggs, algae, moss animals, and even sea serpents. Vegetation they feed on includes seaweed, sea lettuce, lobster horns, and red moss.

As with most sea turtles, hatchlings and eggs are more at risk than adults are. Almost no animal eat adult green turtles with known predators being humans and sharks.

A handful of animals eat the hatchlings. These include sharks (Chondrichthyes) specifically whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) & tiger sharks, saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porous), and crabs (Brachyura).

Humans are the top consumers of green turtle eggs. Other animals that are known to eat the eggs of this species include red foxes, jaguars, jackals, and domesticated dogs.

What Eats Flatback Sea Turtles?

Leatherback Sea Turtle beached a little after sunset
Leatherback Sea Turtle beached a little after sunset. – Source

Natator depressus, also known as the flatback, is a sea turtle species endemic to Australia.

This turtle has the most limited geographic range as it is endemic to just Australia. This turtle has been known to travel to Papua New Guinea to forage.

These turtles live in Australia and prefer soft-bottom shallow coastal waters. Because of the flatbacks preference for soft bottom areas they are not found in coral reefs.

Green turtles are carnivorous and feed on marine invertebrates including but not limited to bryozoans, sea cucumbers, prawns, jellyfish, and mollusks. As carnivores, flatbacks rarely eat vegetation.

These turtles like other sea turtles have almost no predators as adults. The two animals known to attack adult flatbacks include orcas (O. orca) and sharks (Chondrichthyes). Humans are known to feed on adult and sub-adult flatbacks.

The eggs of flatbacks have a handful of predators. These are dogs (C. l. familiaris), pigs & hogs (Suidae), and foxes (Vulpes).

The hatchlings also have some predators as well. These are estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), birds, and crabs (Decapoda).

Frequently Asked Questions

What bird eats baby sea turtles?

Hatchlings are usually eaten by birds as they dash to the sea. Birds such as raptors (Falconiformes), herons, vultures, frigate birds, and gulls all attack and eat baby sea turtles as they scramble towards the sea. 

What eats adult sea turtles?

Because of their large size and tough shells, very few animals are capable of eating adult sea turtles. The animals that eat adult sea turtles the most are humans, large sharks such as tiger sharks and requiem sharks, killer whales, jaguars (that attack nesting females), saltwater crocodiles, octopi, and other large fish. 

The animals that prey on adult sea turtles the most apart from humans are large sharks and killer whales.

What eats baby sea turtles?

Baby sea turtles unfortunately have many predators as they are basically defenseless. Some of the many animals that eat baby sea turtles include ants, armadillos, bears, bobcats and lynxes, crabs, crocodiles, crows, dogs, frigate birds, great white, groupers, gulls, heron, honey badgers, killer whales, octopus, other sea turtle, opossums, raccoons, raptors, rats, ray-finned fishes, foxes, saltwater crocodiles, seagulls, sharks such as tiger sharks, requiem sharks, & whitetip sharks, side-striped jackals, skunks, and small cats.

What eats sea turtle eggs?

A lot of animals feed on sea turtle eggs. Some animals that eat sea turtle eggs apart from humans include dogs, rats, ghost crabs, turnstones, raccoons, plovers, coatis, pigs & hogs, monitor lizards, genets, mongooses, knots, golden jackals, jaguar, and red foxes.

What eats sea turtles in the coral reef?

So what eats sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs?

Within the coral reefs, the predators that feed on sea turtles are mostly large sharks such as whitetip reef sharks. Killer whales, dolphins, and other large fish also eat sea turtles in the coral reef.

What eats the green turtles in the Caribbean Sea?

Sharks, dolphins, and orcas eat green turtles in the Caribbean Sea. Apart from those, carnivorous fish such as groupers, snappers, and barracuda all eat green turtles in the Caribbeans.

What sharks eat sea turtles?

Large sharks eat sea turtles. The tiger shark is one shark that eats sea turtles a lot. Other sharks that eat sea turtles are requiem sharks and even whitetip sharks.

Conclusion

All sea turtles have predators. A lot of animals eat sea turtles. Interestingly, most animals that prey on sea turtles only prey on younglings and eggs.

Adult sea turtles are huge, physically imposing, and have shells that provide a lot of protection. Because of the physical build of adult sea turtles, they have very few predators.

Animals known to attack adult sea turtles include humans, dolphins, orcas, and sharks.

Hatchlings and eggs on the other hand have a lot of predators. Humans collect most of the sea turtle eggs.

Other animals such as dogs, pigs, raccoons, crabs, and hogs feed on sea turtle eggs. Hatchlings are also extensively eaten by birds and all manners of carnivorous sea animals including adult and subadult sea turtles.

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