June 10, 2018
Loggerhead turtles are actually scientifically known as Caretta caretta which comes from the French word “caret” which means “a kind of turtle.”
Their common names fit them much better since they have a huge head with heavy jaws that can clamp down like a vice.
The size ratio of head to the shell is unusual with the head being noticeably oversized.
Whether you think of the weight of a large log or the strength of a logger, the head of this turtle makes sense!
A Loggerhead Sea Turtle - Image By Brian Gratwicke
Their shell is also very dense and hard. They have overlapping scales on the shell (carapace) which are called scutes. The shell is somewhat heart-shaped.
The overall color of a Loggerhead is a reddish or yellowish brown.
The females are actually usually larger than the males! A tiny baby Loggerhead turtle is so small, yet the females can grow to somewhere between 170 and 350 lbs.
Males may be smaller, but they have a longer tail.
It’s not as difficult to identify the gender of an adult Loggerhead due to these differences.
These turtles have short front flippers and 2 claws and rear flippers that may have 2-3 claws.
The adult’s shells typically range from 2.5 to 3.5 feet.
Loggerhead Turtles are migratory, so they move all around the ocean over time.
They spend most of their time underwater and can stay underwater for up to four hours at a time.
They prefer to sleep underwater while resting on a surface where water covers them but keeps them near the surface.
They are so large and have such enormous bite force that they aren’t easily attacks by sea predators, but they seem to feel most secure when they are in a dive.
Loggerheads have been known to eat seaweed so they could technically be called omnivores, but most of the time they would be considered carnivores.
Their preferences include jellyfish, crabs, shell material, as well as some other crustaceans and small fish.
If a food source grows scarce they won’t hesitate to move elsewhere to get the foods that they love.
Adult Loggerhead Sea Turtles don’t have to worry much about predators since they are just too big and too strong for other sea life to chew or even swallow whole.
The hatchlings are much more susceptible to this problem.
At hatching time a small turtle can be eaten by omnivores and carnivores that live near the beach such as raccoons, land crabs, and birds.
Once they take to the water they are just as vulnerable to large fish and larger birds that hunt on the surface. As they grow they become less defenseless, though they have to stay away from sharks until they are closer to their adult size.
Female Loggerhead Sea turtles are amazing creatures. They find their way to the same beach where they were born if they can, and if they do have to change locations, they will continue to return to the same breeding location again and again.
Scientists believe that they use the stars to navigate. This habit of returning to the same location is sometimes called “nest fidelity” or “site fidelity.”
The mother turtle will lay eggs in nests on the beach. She’ll lay somewhere between 100 and 125 eggs, but she will do this again every 2 weeks during laying season. They can usually manage to lay eggs anywhere from four to six times. The incubation period will be about 55-65 days per group of eggs.
The gender of the hatchlings will depend on the temperature during the incubation period. This may be one reason that the female turtle lays eggs weeks apart, to promote more diversity in the gender of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle population. If the eggs are warmer during incubation that will result in females whereas cooler temperatures will result in male babies.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles need a lot of space to migrate for food and breeding.
They lose some of this territory due to fishing boats, cruise lines, recreational boating, oil operations and other ocean activities.
The foraging habitat of the turtles has also degraded with an increase in population along the coastlines. Humans that live or recreate on the beach may leave behind plastic. The plastic can be eaten by adult females or get wrapped around the hatchlings.
Pollution along the beaches and in the water affects the ecology of all sea life including turtles.
Since female Loggerheads return to their nests for breeding, artificial lighting can make it more difficult for them to navigate. Developments along the coastlines add artificial lighting. If confusion slows them down, they may have a shortened breeding season and lay fewer eggs. Warming trends and shortened breeding periods can also cause less diversity in the population which alters Loggerhead Sea Turtle reproduction rates.
The same development that brings artificial lighting also brings human housing and recreational structures that limit the nesting areas.
Adult turtles are also easily entangled in fishing gear and while the population was higher, fishermen didn’t think much about the survival of the tangled turtles. They could be left to die or be eaten by fisherman which contributed to their decline. They are still a popular food in some areas, so hunting has reduced their numbers further. Although it is now illegal to poach for the trade of meat, shells, and eggs, it still occurs at an alarming rate.
When you add the early deaths of these turtles due to polluted water and poisoned food sources, it is easy to see why Loggerhead Sea Turtles are now endangered.
Marine biologists and other scientists have learned a great deal about Loggerhead Sea Turtles, which is wonderful.
Scientists continue to observe the long-range migration of these turtles.
There has also been an increase in teamwork between universities in coastal cities which is critical.
Due to the long-range migratory movements of sea turtles between nesting beaches and foraging areas, international communication and collaboration are essential for Loggerhead Sea Turtles.
With ongoing university study and scientists forming groups to create protections for these turtles, we hope that the future of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle will be promising.
University funding is limiting and global organizations often do not share funding, so much of the onus will fall on those who love turtles and other sea life.
At Sandy Ripple, we've come up with a way we can help bring awareness. We've created cute shirts and other apparel with a sea turtle design on it, this sea turtles can spark a conversation with friends & strangers, or just show your love for turtles.
If you'd like to become part of the ripple, click the link to shop from our collection.
We donate a portion of the proceeds to sea turtle groups and associations.
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