50 Facts About Sea Turtles


50 facts a bout sea turtles

The ocean is home to some of the world’s most amazing creatures, including Sea Turtles. With their majestic appearance, long life-spans, and generally peaceful demeanours, Sea Turtles are one of the most sought after creatures by divers around the globe. Read on to learn 50 facts about Sea Turtles.

Fact 1: When Sea Turtles are crying, they are not sad or in pain, they are removing excess salt from the water that they have just drunk.

  • Sea turtles have special glands in their eyes that filter excess salt from the water they drink.
  • They excrete it in tear form, making it look like they are crying.

Fact 2: Turtles have been on this world for more than 200 million years, which is a lot longer than humans.

  • The oldest discovered fossils from any turtle was about 220 million years old.
  • The oldest discovered Sea Turtles fossil was dated about 150 million years old.

Fact 3: Female Sea Turtles return to the same beach where they were born to deposit their own eggs.

  • This is also the only time that they get out of the water and go to the beach.
  • It means that most male Sea Turtles never leave the ocean. However, it has been seen on some remote beaches, that both sexes of Sea Turtles were basking under the sun.

Fact 4: Sea turtles can hold their breath underwater for up to 5 hours.

  • Sea Turtles do not have gills, they cannot breathe underwater. They need to go to the surface and take in as much oxygen as possible.
  • Underwater, they slow down their heart rate to 1 beat, per 9 minutes to conserve oxygen.

Fact 5: Only one out of thousands of eggs deposited by female Sea Turtles will make it to adulthood.

  • There are several factors that affect this number. Including, the destruction of eggs by other animals and humans.
  • Pollution and global warming are also dangerous to baby Sea Turtles.

Fact 6: Sea Turtles have only 2 consistent predators: humans and dogs.

  • Dogs are a danger because they can smell where Sea Turtle eggs are buried, and they eat them. 
  • Humans throughout history have been poaching Sea Turtles and other turtles, because of their meat and shells.

Fact 7: The temperature of the sand, that eggs are incubated in, determines the baby Sea Turtles sex.

  • If the sand is warm, the hatchlings will be female. If the sand is cool, the hatchlings will be male.
  • Less male Sea Turtles are being created because the sand on beaches is too hot. This is prominent in areas like the Great Barrier Reef, where there are obviously more females than males.

Fact 8: Sea Turtles have a lifespan of around 100 years.

  • They have one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom.
  • Left on their own, and without human intervention, most Sea Turtles will reach this age.

Fact 9: Sea Turtles don’t have vocal cords, but they can still make sounds.

  • The noise made by Sea Turtles depend on their gender.
  • Some of them make a ‘clucking’ sound, while others make high-pitched ‘whining’ sounds.

Fact 10: Sea Turtles are pretty hardy animals and can take care of themselves!

  • They have a hard shell and hard skin making it hard for predators to attack them.
  • In reality, they don’t have natural predators under the ocean, except for human poachers and boats.

Fact 11: They don’t have diaphragms but they can still breathe.

  • A diaphragm is a flexible muscle that helps us draw air into our lungs.
  • In its absence, Sea Turtles utilize other muscles in their upper bodies to take in air.

Fact 12: Females lay around 100 eggs at a time.

  • They use their hind flippers to dig a hole where the eggs will be buried, and they let the sand incubate the eggs for just over 2 months.
  • Once hatched, hatchlings will have to dig their way up to the surface, and crawl their way to the ocean.

Fact 13: Sea Turtle eggs look like ping-pong balls.

  • But don’t ever play with them! Some organizations are working hard to ensure that humans don’t touch Sea Turtles’ nesting grounds.
  • Females lay eggs every 2-3 years. Reproducing at this rate contributes to the rapid decline in their population. They aren’t producing fast enough, and a lot of hatchlings don’t even make it to adulthood.

Fact 14: Sea Turtles have an excellent sense of direction.

  • They use the Earth’s magnetic field as a compass, and they can remember the places where they’ve been before.
  • This is the reason why female Sea Turtles go back to where they hatched, even after years of swimming in the ocean.

Fact 15: There are 7 species of Sea Turtle, and 6 of them are considered endangered.

  • The 6 species that are endangered include Green Sea Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, and Olive Ridley Turtle.
  • The Flatback Turtle, found only in Australia, is also considered a vulnerable species but not on the list.

Fact 16: Hawksbill Turtles are named after their jaws, because they look like a hawk’s head.

  • The hawk-like jaw allows them to reach into hard places to pull out food.
  • Their favourite food is sponges found inside corals.

Fact 17: Green Sea Turtles are the only herbivore out of all the Sea Turtle species’.

  • Once they reach adulthood, they act as the ocean’s lawnmower eating only seagrass and algae.
  • This is very important because they balance the ocean’s biodiversity.

Fact 18: Leatherbacks have adapted their feeding habits to only include soft foods in their diet.

  • The favourite food of Leatherbacks is Jellyfish. 
  • They have a stiff spine in their throat that helps them swallow these slippery, soft foods.

Fact 19: Olive Ridleys lay eggs together: as many as 200,000 new hatchlings are produced in one arribada.

  • Most sea turtles are known to be solitary creatures, swimming alone throughout their lives.
  • However, it’s been discovered that Olive Ridleys Turtles lay their eggs together. This process is known as ‘arribadas’.

Fact 20: A home movie unlocked the mystery of where Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles lay their eggs.

  • Pre 1960, scientists didn’t know where Kemp’s Ridleys laid their eggs.
  • In 1961, a home movie was released, recorded in 1947, where Kemp Ridleys could be seen laying their eggs on a beach, off the Northern Gulf coast of Mexico.

Fact 21: Kemp Ridleys created a new home for themselves in Texas. In 1996, they created more than 350 new hatchlings.

  • In order to increase their population, this secondary nesting location was made in Texas’ Padre Island National Seashore.
  • By 2013 numbers had grown, and more than 11,000 hatchlings were created.

Fact 22: ‘Shrimp trawling’ is now a thing of the past for Sea Turtles.

  • Sea Turtles, in the Gulf of Mexico, often perished because they would accidentally get tangled in the nets used to catch shrimp.
  • The new Turtle Excluder Device (TEDs) greatly diminished the mortality rate of Sea Turtles, as they can escape these nets unharmed.

Fact 23: Sea Turtles are fabulous long-distance swimmers.

  • Sea Turtles have been known to migrate great distances in search of food, and warmer temperatures.
  • There has been a documented migration, where Sea Turtles swam from California to Japan.

Fact 24: One scientist used a dog to find out where Sea Turtles buried their eggs.

  • Most species of Sea Turtles nest at night, but Kemp’s Ridleys nests during the day, so the wind can wipe out the female’s tracks off the sand.
  • This is why a scientist used her trained terrier, to find where these turtles nested, in order to bring the eggs to the lab to incubate them.

Fact 25: Scientists use the same material to attach fake nails onto humans, to attach tracking devices onto hatchlings.

  • Because of the rapid growth of hatchlings, it was difficult for scientists to track newborn turtles using the traditional tracking methods.
  • However, scientists found that ‘neoprene-silicone’ kept the tracking tags on long enough for them to finally observe the development of hatchlings.

Fact 26: Scientist once mass-evacuated Sea Turtles’ eggs by shipping them through FedEx.

  • Scientists were worried that new hatchlings might swim into an oil spill. This oil spill referred to the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010.
  • They launched a save the eggs campaign, which led to the release of more than 14,000 new hatchlings into safer waters.

Fact 27: Poaching is still a massive threat to Sea Turtles.

  • The Sea Turtle is considered a delicacy and an exotic cuisine in Asian culture.
  • Authorities often seize boats off the coast of Vietnam and the Philippines carrying thousands of dead Sea Turtles.

Fact 28: Turtles can get deadly tumours.

  • ‘Fibropapillomatosis’ is a type of lethal tumour that is prevalent in Green Sea Turtles.
  • Scientists believe that it is because of algal bloom, which is in some parts of the ocean, and is eaten by Sea Turtles.

Fact 29: Sea Turtles eat a lot of plastic, because they think that they’re Jellyfish.

  • Since some species of Sea Turtles like to eat Jellyfish, they are often tricked by plastic items like bags, and eat them by accident.
  • In one study, they found dead turtles with digestive tracts completely packed with undigested plastics.

Fact 30: Sea Turtles do not have visible ears.

  • They can hear very well. Their eardrums are covered with skin.
  • It’s pretty useful for detecting incoming ships.

Fact 31: The Green Sea Turtle got its name from the colour of its cartilage and fat.

  • It’s not because of its shell colour.
  • The green colour is primarily because of their diet, which consists of algae and seagrasses.

Fact 32: The eggshells, left by newly hatched turtles, are important for maintaining the health of beaches.

  • Once hatched, these eggshells are left on the beach to decompose.
  • These eggshells provide nutrients to the sand and in turn, prevent erosion in coastal areas.

Fact 33: Leatherback Sea Turtles are the largest species of Sea Turtle. They can reach up to 2-3 meters long.

  • And nearly 1-1.5 meters wide.
  • They can also weigh up to 1500 pounds!

Fact 34: In the US, sitting or riding a Sea Turtle is considered a 3rd-class  felony.

  • A woman in Florida learned this the hard way, when she was arrested for molesting a Sea Turtle.
  • She had posted a picture of herself on a Sea Turtle on her Snapchat account, and was later charged.

Fact 35: Today, many countries have made it illegal to hunt, and eat Sea Turtles.

  • This has been a long and exhausting effort from Sea Turtle conservationists, who have fought for the Sea Turtles’ rights.
  • Years ago, a Sea Turtle shell would’ve been considered a luxury decoration for the home.

Fact 36: Leatherbacks are immune to the sting of the deadly Box Jellyfish.

  • In fact, it’s one of their favourite foods to eat.
  • Because Sea Turtles eat these ‘deadly’ Jellyfish, people generally think that it’s safe to swim where Leatherback Sea Turtles live.

Fact 37: When baby turtles hatch, they are drawn to the light.

  • On secluded beaches, baby turtles follow the moonlight or the stars to get to the sea.
  • However, some beaches are near cities. In this case baby Sea Turtles get drawn to the city lights, thus destroying the natural process.

Fact 38: Generally eating a Sea Turtle is not a good idea!

  • Most Sea Turtles eat algae and other creatures, they can sometimes carry harmful bacteria.
  • Some countries consider the meat too be toxic and harmful to humans.

Fact 39: Some conservationists have gone to the Pope and asked him to declare Turtles as “meat” instead of “fish.”

  • During lent Catholics are supposed to abstain from eating meat, but to combat this Mexico have created a tradition whereby they eat turtles instead on lent.
  • This leads to a high number of black market Sea Turtle sales.

Fact 40: A small piece of plastic ingested by Sea Turtles can still be fatal.

  • A small piece of plastic can get trapped in their stomachs, preventing them from swallowing.  
  • When plastics get trapped in their bodies, they float, making it easier for Sea Turtles to be hunted.

Fact 41: The Sea Turtle population has declined by almost 90% in the last few years. It’s declining mainly because of people poaching them. 

  • For example, the Hawksbill Turtle is hunted because of its beautiful shell making it rare! 
  • Leatherbacks are also a favourite among poachers, because of their sheer size and unique shells.

Fact 42: Trash left on the beach attracts non-native species’, they then  attack the Sea Turtles’ eggs.

  • These creatures don’t usually go to the beach area, but because trash is left behind, they now have a stable source of food.
  • At the beach these animals catch a whiff of egg scent and go to dig up the nests. Several nests could be destroyed in a night.

Fact 43: The smallest Sea Turtle is the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle.

  • An adult Kemp’s Ridley Turtle can grow up to 2 feet long. That’s as tall as a three-year-old toddler.
  • They only weigh up to 45 kilograms.

Fact 44: It takes up to 30 years for female Sea Turtles to reach sexual maturity.

  • Around this time they will start to make their way back to the place where they were born. 
  • Some females continuously nest up to the age of 80.

Fact 45: The journey of a hatchling is a difficult one because they must survive against predators.

  • Once they hatch, they have to escape the beach where natural predators will be waiting for them. Foxes, racoons, and crabs are some examples.
  • Once they make it into the water, they will need to escape other sea predators and sea birds.

Fact 46: Releasing balloons can be fatal for Sea Turtles.

  • Balloons often end up in the ocean.
  • Sea Turtles think that they are food, and the balloons end up in their stomachs.

Fact 47: When visiting the beach be respectful of nesting Mothers and eggs. Too many people forget that we share beaches with lots of other wildlife.

  • Respecting the beach is crucial. Not only should you take your rubbish home with you, but you should be careful with the activities and games you decide to play. Running, screaming and vibrations can cause distress to Sea Turtle Mothers and hatchlings. 
  • It goes without saying, if you must drive on the beach be careful!!! Although it’s better to avoid driving on the beach altogether.

Fact 48: A Sea Turtle’s anatomy has made them great swimmers.

  • Their long flippers have adapted, so they can move freely underwater.
  • Their eyes allow them to see clearly underwater, but on the shore, they are nearsighted.

Fact 49: Sea Turtles are in danger and it’s because of humans.

  • Global warming is a major threat to the number of Sea Turtles, as the existence of male Sea Turtles is dependent on the cool temperature of the sand. We could start to make positive changes to help decrease Global Warming to save the Turtles.
  • Also, poaching, oil spills, pollution, and plastic in the ocean kill thousands of turtles yearly contributing to their rapid decline. We could start helping, by throwing rubbish in the bin.  

Fact 50: There are several conservation efforts that can help save Sea Turtles. Examples include SEE Turtles, Sea Turtle Conservancy and STC.

  • There are many organizations around the globe that patrol nesting beaches, in order to protect them from natural predators and poachers.
  • Most of the time, the volunteers have to stay for 2 weeks, sleep in tents, and enjoy communal meals with other volunteers.

References:

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