Sea turtles are amongst the most popular marine animals. But did you know there are 7 different types of sea turtles? They all have different personalities and characteristics. So let’s learn about all of them.
There are seven discovered sea turtle breeds. These are the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Flatback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Olive Ridley. All sea turtle species live in separate habitats as they all have different requirements.
If you want to learn more about each species of turtle, keep reading. We will look at their diet, nesting, protection, size, and habitat.
Let’s dive in.
7 types of sea turtles
1. Green Sea Turtle
Green sea turtles, known as Chelonia mydas, are the most well-known types of sea turtles.
This species of sea turtle tends to favor tropical waters near the equator. Some even venture off to cooler water nearer the North and South.
They spread over massive distances and nest in 80 countries. Particularly in the Hawaiian Islands, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Australia.
Greens can live up to a staggering 80 years in the wild with proper diet and protection. Green turtles’ diet consists of algae, seaweed, and seagrass. Since they only eat plants they are herbivores.
Green turtles have a strong shell that helps shield them from predators. They are also speedy swimmers and are able to out-swim their predators.
Unfortunately unlike the other breeds of sea turtle, greens can’t hide their head in its shell.
Green turtles lay 65-180 eggs per nest. They nest every 2 weeks for several months before returning back to the ocean. It takes around 2 months for the baby turtles to hatch.
The average weight of an adult green is 160kg. It can grow to be four to three feet long which is the average height of a human toddler!
2. Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Loggerhead sea turtles, also known as Caretta caretta. Received their name from their wide head that protects their strong jaw muscles.
Loggerhead turtles use their powerful jaws to bite into tough-shelled prey. Such as clams and crabs. Loggerheads eat plenty of meat making them carnivores.
Loggerheads live globally in subtropical seas. They’re seen in the Mediterranean, as well as off the coast of America.
Loggerheads nest all around the Caribbean, Brazil, and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Loggerheads nest in the summer to fall seasons. Their hatchlings are born a mere 5-6 weeks later. Every night for two weeks female loggerheads rise onto the beach at night and lay an average of 100 to 120 eggs.
Loggerhead turtles protect themselves from predators and illnesses in quite remarkable ways. Due to their thick shell and scaly skin, humans are less likely to hunt them.
They also have unique salt glands close to their eyes that can absorb high amounts of salt. Meaning they’re capable of drinking salty water without dehydrating or becoming ill.
Quite like green turtles, Loggerheads can live 70-80 years in the wild. Unfortunately, only 1 in 1,000 baby turtles survive before even making it to the ocean.
Animals like birds and crabs eat infants or they die of dehydration if they don’t make it home fast enough.
Loggerheads can grow to a standard of 2.5 to 3.5 feet and weigh up to 170kg depending on diet and health conditions.
3. Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is named for their lean head and hawkish beak. Their scientific name is Eretmochelys imbricata.
Hawksbill turtles travel to a variety of different habitats throughout their lifetime. Though they tend to favor nearshore areas with lots of food. Particularly thriving coral reef habitats.
Hawksbills have surfaced in large tropical rivers and seas near the Eastern Pacific.
Hawksbill turtles’ favorite meal is sea sponges. They will also eat algae, corals, small fish, and jellyfish. Though they do eat ocean plants they still eat meat thus they are omnivores.
Unfortunately, hawksbill turtles live a shortened life of about 50-60 years. Less than any other breed because they are a lot lighter and easier to kill and hunt.
The hawksbill seems to nest every 2 to 3 years and lay approximately 60 to 200 eggs at once. They often nest close to coral reefs.
After two months of fertilizing in the tropical sand, the eggs crack, and the babies migrate to the water.
As dainty as the hawksbill looks, it’s one of the most savage sea turtles there is. The hawksbill protects itself with its huge, angular jaw.
Hawksbill can be up to 2 to 3 feet in shell length and can weigh near 50-70kg in their adult years.
4. Leatherback Sea Turtle
Leatherback Sea turtles are spectacular swimmers. But did you know they are also the only sea turtle species that can venture into colder waters? Leatherbacks are also referred to as Dermochelys coriacea.
Leatherbacks are the biggest living sea turtle. Measuring an incredible 6.5 feet, taller than the average man, and weighing 900 kilograms.
Leatherback turtles live in humid waters in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They populate every ocean apart from the Arctic and Antarctic.
Leatherback turtles have an extraordinary diet, jellyfish. Leatherbacks only eat invertebrates such as jellyfish and sea squirts.
Since they aren’t plants or meat, leatherbacks got a special name, gelatinivore.
Unfortunately, this restrictive diet can lead to their death. They confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and choke and in most cases to death.
A female nests every two to three years, laying many nests per season. Leatherbacks lay around 95 eggs. Around 70 will be fertilized and around 25 remain unhatched.
After 60 days the eggs will begin to hatch and the hatchlings will make their way to the sea.
As opposed to the other sea turtle breeds, leatherbacks have adapted to colder water. All thanks to an amazing list of adaptations that helps them make and maintain their body heat.
These adaptations consist of:
- a thick layer of fat
- modified swimming techniques
- changes in blood flow
- more body weight.
5. Flatback Sea Turtle
Flatback turtles are one of the lesser-studied types of sea turtles. Due to the lack of sightings and distanced habitat. Natator depressus is their scientific name.
Flatbacks are omnivores. Feeding on soft-bodied prey such as jellyfish, light corals, and sea cucumbers.
This species loves to spend its time in shallow, coastal waters and only comes on land to lay its eggs. They live in Australia but also migrate to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia for food.
Flat backs only nest in Australia as it’s their native country. A female flatback will nest every 2-3 years. They nest in November-January. They lay two to three clutches of eggs which contain 50 eggs.
Flatbacks are approximately 3 feet long and are a little on the lighter side weighing 100kg. It has the same life expectancy as most of the other breeds living at an estimated 80 years.
Flatbacks were once thought to be a type of green turtle. That is until researchers discovered they were a whole different species.
6. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are the rarest species. There are only roughly 7000 to 9000 of these little guys left in our oceans. Experts refer to them as Lepidochelys kempii.
Adult Kemp’s are only 2 feet long and 40kg in weight. Making them the smallest and lightest sea turtle species.
Kemp’s Ridley lives near the shore in Mexico In shallow, muddy bottoms. Where the majority of their meals are.
Their diet includes jellyfish, fish, algae, seaweed, crabs, and mollusks. They are omnivores because they eat plants and other small creatures.
Juvenile sea turtles who have not yet matured will mainly eat crabs and fish.
Nesting takes place from April to July. As opposed to the other types of turtles who nest at night, Kemp’s ridleys nest at daytime. They lay clutches of 2-3 every season. They reappear every 1 to 3 years to nest.
Kemp’s Ridleys are the most endangered sea turtle and are likely to go extinct. The reason their population is so scarce is that they get stuck in fishing gear such as gill nets, traps, and shrimp trawls.
They also struggle with habitat wreckage. But we are taking extra measures to ensure we don’t lose these amazing sea turtles.
7. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Olive Ridleys, related to Kemp’s Ridley. They are especially known for their interesting nesting routines. Olive Ridley’s scientific name is Lepidochelys olivacea.
As stated before, olive ridleys have extraordinary synchronized nesting events. Named ‘arribadas’ meaning ‘arrive’ in Spanish.
This means females come together on a single beach to lay their hundreds of eggs over the next few days. Their nesting season is June to December.
As omnivores, Olive Ridleys love to eat seaweed, algae, shrimp, and crabs. They can dive an astonishing 500 feet to find meals like jellyfish that live at the bottom of the water.
Olive ridleys live in open seas by the coast. They have also traveled upwards of 2500 miles from land. Olive ridleys live in tropical oceans all over the globe.
Much like Kemp’s Ridleys, they are a much smaller breed compared to other sea turtles. Adults only measure an average of 2 feet in shell length and weigh 45kg.
To wrap it up, you now have more knowledge about these fascinating creatures.
You know about all 7 different types of sea turtles and their diets, nesting, habitats, and sizes. Furthermore, you have learned there is more than one type of sea turtle species and how you can tell them apart.