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Incredible Facts About Endangered Sea Turtles

A hundred eggs in every nest once meant survival for the sea turtles. But now that turtle oil and soup are in such demand, this number may not be enough. It seems that awareness is the only means to protect the endangered sea turtles. Hence, an effort should be made to know more about their lifestyle and history.

Sea turtles are among the most confirmedly aquatic of all reptiles. In body form, musculature, and behavior, they are marvelously equipped for successful life in the water. But they have retained one old reptilian feature that ties them to the land. That is the shelled egg that has to be lodged on shore.  

At breeding time female sea turtles leave the safety of the sea, where they have grown to a size that makes them almost immune to predators, and lumber ashore. There they are exposed to the hazards of the land. A sea turtle on shore is defenseless. She weighs on the average nearly 300 pounds but seems almost totally unable to use her bulk and strength in active self-defense.

One variety of sea turtle, the Atlantic green, was important in the colonization of the Americas. It was abundant and edible, populating tropical coasts throughout the Caribbean. The British and Spanish fleets counted on turtle meat to feed their forces while cruising in New World waters. A green turtle was as big as a heifer, easy to catch, and easy to keep alive for many weeks on its back in a space no greater than the turtle itself.

How to Save Sea Turtles

The ruthless exploitation that has brought the green turtle to the edge of extinction has beset all sea turtles: green turtles, loggerheads, ridleys, hawksbills, and leatherbacks. Today, these peaceful creatures have been taken from the Indian Ocean to Ascension Island in the middle of the South Atlantic. To save sea turtles and if possible relocate them where they once flourished, it is necessary to know more about their life history.

There are only two times in the life of a sea turtle when a zoologist can count on making contact with it: When it hatches, and when the female goes ashore to nest. The rest of its life is lived away off somewhere out of sight and has to be reconstructed from fragmentary observations. Scientists put an identification tag on an adult turtle, so that they can recognize it from one year to the next.

From Eggs to Hatchlings

The female sea turtle is awkward of gait, myopic of vision, and single track of mind. Still in the dark of night the female turtle lumbers up the beach, digs a nest in the sand, and lays about 100 eggs. After 60 days the eggs hatch. The golf-ball-size turtle eggs hatch among dozens of other eggs buried in the sand. The young wait near the surface, perhaps for the sand to reach the right temperature. The dash to the sea is the most perilous time in the life of sea turtles. Even in the darkness predators such as the black vulture and white-lipped peccary take many hatchlings.

Types of Sea Turtles

There are five major kinds of sea turtles that come ashore only to lay eggs. The largest is the leatherback, whose tough shell measures up to 6 feet in length; smallest is the ridley, at 2 feet. The most endangered are the Atlantic ridley, one of two ridley species, and the hawksbill. The ridley is commercially valuable because of its eggs and hide, the hawksbill for its tortoise shell. The leatherback turtles, which lack the usual hard shell of turtles, are the least endangered.

Interesting Facts about the Atlantic Ridley

Like the green turtle and other sea turtles, the Atlantic ridley comes ashore to lay its eggs. But unlike all others, it does this by day rather than by night. This small turtle also nests in denser concentrations than any other reptile; its entire world population uses a few miles of sand near Rancho Nuevo on Mexico’s east coast. The Atlantic ridley’s habit of nesting in huge concentrations in the day time has made it extremely vulnerable to hunters and egg collectors.

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