Loggerhead Sea Turtle

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The loggerhead sea turtle is probably the most widely known species of sea turtles, and it lives in temperate and tropic oceans around the world. The top of its body is mostly a dark reddish-brown on the flippers, head, and shell. The underside is a pale yellow color that you can see a little on the edges of its body.

Their name comes from the large, strong head and jaws which evidently reminded people of logs. Their mouth is called a beak because of how bony it is. On the inside, it is completely toothless, but it has a bunch of backwards-pointing spines that help keep prey in its mouth.

There are a few ways to tell the males apart from the female. Males have a more brown shell and a yellower head. They also have wider shells and longer tails, but that only helps if a male and a female are right next to each other. On their front flippers, males have a small curved claw that the females don’t have. Based on these descriptions, you can tell that the turtle shown above is a male.

Size

These turtles can grow to be extremely large, and they also have a wide size range. The adults typically range from 160 to 350 pounds (75-160 kg) with a length between 31 and 39 inches (80-100 cm). About in the middle of this range is the average. Some loggerhead sea turtles are much larger. The largest individuals ever found weighed around 1,200 pounds (545 kg) and were about 7 feet (214 cm) long!

Diet

Loggerhead sea turtles are omnivores, but their diet mainly consists of other animals. Their favorite food is probably jellyfish, but they will also eat crabs, fish, sea urchins, shrimp, octopuses, and squid. Sometimes they will eat plant matter, such as seaweed or different sea grasses.

Habitat and range

The picture below shows this turtle’s range. They live in almost all of the Atlantic ocean as well as most other ocean areas not too far off shore in the temperate and tropical waters. The largest population of loggerhead turtles breeds off the coast of the south-eastern United States, from North Carolina to Florida.

These sea turtles never go very deep in the ocean. Even when they are in the open ocean, they always stay pretty close to the surface. The breeding areas these turtles choose are near sand beaches that are at sea level. They would not be able to find a good place to lay their eggs if there were cliffs or rocky soil.

Status and threats

Loggerhead sea turtles are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Redlist. Most turtles are able to bring their head into their shell when they are threatened, but no sea turtles are able to do this. They do, however, have extremely tough skin which protects the adults from most predators.

The adults have very few, if any, natural predators, but the juveniles and eggs have many threats. They are preyed on by several animals, such as crows, seagulls, bears, foxes, raccoons, badgers, crabs, wild pigs, rats, opossums, bobcats, crabs, sharks, and other fish. Most of these are land predators, which either prey on the eggs or on the hatchlings before they have a chance to get to the water.

There are also several non-natural threats which affect both the adults and the juveniles. Pollution is a large threat, and so is humans harvesting their eggs. Perhaps the biggest threat, though, is accidental catching by fisheries. It is estimated that over 42,000 loggerhead sea turtles are accidentally caught each year. While not all of these die because of it, it still is a big threat. Construction and development on beaches is also making it harder for these turtles to find nesting places.

Reproduction and young

This animal’s breeding season runs from late spring to early fall. Just like with last week’s animal, the male loggerhead sea turtle will come to the breeding site early and wait for the females. After mating, the female will climb onto the shore and dig a pit in the sand. She will lay between 40 and 190, normally around 100, eggs into the pit. Before going back to the ocean, she will do her best to cover the nest with sand. Each female may lay between 3 and 5 clutches of eggs per season.

The eggs incubate for between 45 and 80 days. After this time, the young hatch, dig their way out of the sand, and make a beeline for the ocean to try to get there before they are captured by a predator. They are able to breed themselves by starting sometime between when they are 10 and 30. They are able to live more than 60 years in the wild!

My days have been getting quite busy lately, so I am having to cut down on publishing my blog posts. Until my days free up, I’ll be posting only on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturdays of each month. On the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, I’ll post on Facebook a fact about an animal I did a while ago and link to the article.

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Loggerhead sea turtle – TheEmirr
  • Loggerhead sea turtle range –  Brian Gratwicke

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