What Are A Sea Turtle’s Predators?

Sea turtles are fast swimmers and are big creatures. But, sea turtles still need to be cautious of becoming another animal’s prey. So, what are a sea turtle’s predators?

Sea turtles have different predators in different stages of life. Adult sea turtle’s predators include tiger sharks and whales. Hatchlings are attacked by crabs, lizards, seabirds, raccoons, and wild dogs. Nesting female sea turtles can also be eaten by jaguars and wild boars in some parts of the world.

If you would like more information on a sea turtle’s predators, keep on reading. This guide will share everything you should know about sea turtle predators.

Let’s dive in.

What are a sea turtle's predators

What are a sea turtle’s predators?

Adult sea turtle’s predators include apex predators such as sharks and whales. Hatchlings have more predators, with 90% of hatchlings being eaten after hatching.

Now that you know the basics of sea turtle predators, let’s go into more detail. We will go over why these animals eat sea turtles and how sea turtles avoid them.

1. Tiger sharks

Tiger sharks are carnivores that only eat meat, and sea turtles are a favorite of theirs. You may be wondering how the tiger sharks eat sea turtles, due to their hard shells.

Well, tiger sharks have evolved to eat sea turtles. They have special teeth that are able to cut through the sea turtle’s tough carapace.

Sea turtle shells are also softer than land turtle shells. This allows the tiger shark to break the carapace but provides protection for the sea turtle.

Tiger sharks have different teeth from other grey shark species. Their teeth are saw-like so they can slice into the sea turtle.

They attack the sea turtle when it resurfaces for air. It then holds the sea turtle in its mouth and cuts open the shell.

Although sometimes they only take a bite of a sea turtle’s shell or flipper. Since sea turtles are sizable, the sharks can choke on them.

Research has shown that sea turtles aren’t scared of sharks. They don’t try to avoid tiger sharks and only escape when they are being hunted.

Alongside adult sea turtles, they eat juveniles and hatchlings that have reached the sea. They don’t hunt for sea turtles, but if they come across one they will eat it.

2. Orcas

Orcas don’t often hunt sea turtles. But, hunting sea turtles might be useful for young orcas.

In areas like the Galapagos, sea turtle numbers are increasing. Orcas are beginning to develop a taste for sea turtles, and they could be an extra food source.

Even though sea turtles are endangered, protections on beaches are helping increase populations. The orcas have been taking advantage of this and snacking on extra sea turtles.

They have been reported to eat leatherback and green sea turtles. Some orcas have been caught juggling and throwing the sea turtle around before eating it.

People have suggested that they do this with their prey when they aren’t that hungry. They often toss their prey in the air and drag it around as well.

Like tiger sharks, orcas have powerful teeth that can break through a turtle’s shell. Their jaws also allow them the chew the turtle’s hard shell once it’s open.

Orcas are known to crush the sea turtle between rocks. This helps them to scrape out the turtle meat using their jaws.

Their strength and size assist the orcas to do this. Although the sea turtles have hard tissue and flesh, the strength of the orcas allows them to swallow them with ease.

3. Ghost crabs

Ghost crabs are known to hunt hatchlings emerging from their nests. These crabs wait in the dark for the hatchlings to approach and claw them.

They also eat the unsuccessful eggs from the nests too. Weaker hatchlings are more often victims of the ghost crabs as they have been left behind.

They will dig up sea turtle nests after the female sea turtle has finished with them. They don’t dig up the hole again, leaving the nest exposed to other predators and weather conditions.

Loggerhead sea turtles are eaten the most by ghost crabs as they live in the same areas. They also feast on leatherback sea turtles too.

Even though sea turtles hatch at night to avoid most predators, they cant avoid the ghost crabs. Ghost crabs are also nocturnal creatures, which is how they got their name.

Ghost crabs only eat fresh hatchlings and eggs. They don’t interact with nesting females laying their eggs.

Ghost crabs are omnivorous and eat vegetation and insects. They are also scavengers and will eat leftovers like eggs left in the nest or dead hatchlings.

They will chase after the fast hatchlings heading towards the sea. This means that any hatchlings that haven’t developed will fall behind and be the ghost crab’s next meal.

4. Raccoons

Raccoons are another threat to hatchlings and sea turtle eggs. They are also nocturnal, which means that they can eat the vulnerable hatchlings for extra food.

Often, they have been spotted waiting in nearby dunes for them to hatch. Raccoons have a great sense of smell and can find sea turtle nests fast and quick.

They can devour these fresh eggs very fast. Since sea turtle nests can have up to 140 eggs per clutch, the raccoon will be provided will a large, filling meal.

When they have got hatchlings, they will carry them to a different area. This means that the raccoon can eat the sea turtles without disruption.

Raccoons are also great swimmers. This means that they can eat baby hatchlings that have reached the water. They do this before they reach deeper waters, as that puts the raccoons at risk too.

Raccoons can crack open a turtle’s shell, but this isn’t necessary for sea turtle hatchlings. Their shells are very soft, which is why numerous predators are able to eat them.

Their teeth and claws aren’t super powerful, which means they would have no chance with an adult sea turtle. Sea turtles are also faster swimmers, as they are adapted to living in the sea.

5. Seabirds

There are many seabirds that eat unsuspecting hatchlings. This includes gulls, hawks, eagles, and vultures.

Many birds wait for the female to finish laying their eggs. When she’s done, they will dig up the hole and take as many eggs as they can.

If the nest is undisturbed, hatchlings will still need to avoid the hungry seabirds. When they reach the water, they need to swim fast as the birds can swoop down and snack on the tiny hatchlings.

Hatchlings aren’t the only ones seabirds want to feast on. Bigger birds are able to grab medium-sized juveniles.

When they have grabbed them, they will drop them from a high distance on a hard surface. This will crack the sea turtle’s shell, and the bird can eat all the tasty flesh.

Vultures can also eat sea turtles that have been attacked by jaguars. These nesting females are large and leave a lot of meat, which vultures will swoop down and clean up.

Sea turtles are easy meals for seabirds. As they are slower out of the water, seabirds can take the hatchlings with ease since they can fly.

In Conclusion

Sea turtles have a range of different predators, depending on where they live and the stage of life there are at. Hatchlings are more likely to get preyed on, as 90% of hatchlings are eaten by predators.

Tiger sharks are one of the main predators of adult sea turtles. They have evolved to eat sea turtles with a tooth that can cut through their tough shells.

Orcas also like to find on adult sea turtles. Their powerful jaws and teeth help them swallow the sea turtle. Their young also hunt and play with sea turtles.

Ghost crabs attack newly hatched baby hatchlings. They can also dig up fresh eggs after the female sea turtle has laid them.

Raccoons have a great sense of smell that allows them to find eggs unearthed. They will also eat hatchlings before they enter the water.

Seabirds are another predator known to swoop down on sea turtles. They have many different ways of hunting sea turtles, like dropping them from high distances and eating the flesh.

Leave a Comment