Where Do Sea Turtles Live?

Six out of seven sea turtle breeds live in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. You might be wondering why they choose these habitats. So, where do sea turtles live?

Sea turtles are aquatic reptiles that live in saltwater habitats worldwide. Sea turtles live in shallow waters such as coasts, bays, and lagoons. The species of the sea turtle determines what climate they live in. The only waters they don’t live in are the arctic seas.

If you want to find out more about where sea turtles live, keep reading. This article will go into detail about where sea turtles live. We will go through how and why they live there.

Let’s dive in.

Where do sea turtles live

Where do sea turtles live?

All subspecies of sea turtles live in warm, tropical waters. This includes the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans.

Sea turtles live in different locations in these oceans. They select their habitat based on factors like diet and reproduction. Let’s go further into these factors.


Sea turtles are opportunistic eaters and eat what is available to them. Their diets depend on their subspecies, many are omnivores, but some are specialists. They don’t pick habitats based on their diets.

Although, they do prefer to eat certain foods. Hawksbill sea turtles like to eat sponges and soft-bodied invertebrates. They are often found in tropical waters, where hawksbills reside.

Kemp’s ridley like to eat lots of crustaceans. They live in shallow waters with sand or mud at the bottom. Crustaceans like crabs and shrimp also live here, which the kemp’s ridley like.

Green sea turtles are herbivores that like algae and seagrass. These marine floras thrive in bays and estuaries, which is perfect for green sea turtles. They also live in protected bays alongside the plants.


Finding an appropriate nesting area is important for the survival of the hatchlings. Female sea turtles go onto subtropical sandy beaches to nest. They do this a few weeks after mating.

Most sea turtle species choose to lay their eggs in the warmer months. This is because the sand helps keep the eggs warm and moist. Leatherback sea turtles are an exception, as they nest in fall and winter.

It isn’t known what they do after reaching the water. This period is called their lost years and can last up to a decade.

When they hatch, the hatchlings make their way into the ocean. They must swim away from the shore to get away from predators.

When they become juveniles, they will return to the coast. They begin to hunt for food and mature before turning into adults.

Sea turtles remain solitary creatures choosing to live alone. They only interact with others during mating season.


Sea turtles like to live in warm, tropical waters. They can’t survive in cold, polar seas.

As they are cold-blooded reptiles, they can’t maintain body heat. This means that they need to take in heat from their environment to stay warm.

To survive, they occupy warmer water with a temperature of 68°F and higher. Water colder than 10°F makes it difficult for sea turtles to keep cozy.

This leads to hypothermia and becoming cold-stunned. This is when the turtle becomes lethargic with a slow heartbeat and metabolism.

This prevents them from moving to warmer waters as they cannot swim. They also float to the surface of the water, exposing them to the cold air and worsening their condition. It also makes them visible to predators and an easy target.

Exposure to this temperature for a prolonged period will shut down their body. They will later die from hypothermia and/or drowning.

What countries do sea turtles live in?

Sea turtles live in many countries and islands. They also travel to many different locations in their lifetime.

The most common places sea turtle lives in include the US, Australia, and Mexico.

This table here shows the distribution of each subspecies in the world.

FlatbackCoastsNorth, northwest, and northeast regions of Australia
GreenProtected shores and baysWest coasts of North and South America
HawksbillThroughout the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceansThroughout the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans
Kemp’s RidleyShallow areas with sandy or muddy bottomsThe Gulf of Mexico, north-western Atlantic ocean, northern European waters, the Moroccan coast
LeatherbackOceanic, only in coastal waters for breedingNorth-eastern Atlantic, south-eastern Pacific, north Atlantic, south Atlantic, Indian ocean, south-western pacific
LoggerheadBays, coastal streams, creeks, open watersWorldwide
Olive RidleyCoastsTropical regions of the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific

Do sea turtles migrate?

Sea turtles migrate long distances for multiple reasons. These include nesting and feeding. Migration habitats are different for each sea turtle species.

Let’s look at the reasons why they migrate.


Sea turtles migrate thousands of miles during nesting season. They often travel to warmer, subtropical waters. These trips can take years to complete.

Both male and female sea turtles will migrate. They will swim back to the beaches where they were born. This is because they are familiar with these beaches.

They also know these beaches are safer for when their eggs hatch.

It isn’t known how they travel back to these beaches. Many researchers think they use clues like the water currents and chemistry to find their way back.

Loggerhead sea turtles from Japan will travel for years to return to Japan for breeding. They swim across the entire North Pacific from Baja California in Mexico.


Species like the hawksbill stay in the same area for their entire life. Others travel long distances, like the leatherback turtle which travels up to 10,000 miles every year.

Leatherbacks do this to find plentiful sources of jellyfish and crabs. They also find foraging grounds for other sources of food. Atlantic leatherbacks migrate from the Caribbean to Nova Scotia, Canada to find giant jellyfish.

This is important as they need to build up lots of fat for migration. This requires a lot of energy which they save as much of as possible. Sea turtles also rely on the ocean’s currents to drift along the oceans to save energy.

When they return, they are often found in the middle of the Atlantic. They sometimes migrate to the west coast of Africa before returning to the Caribbean.

Where do sea turtles live in winter?

In winter, some sea turtles swim to deeper water more south. This is to avoid cold-stunning and hypothermia.

Others stay a couple of inches in the mud and hibernate. After hibernation, they warm themselves up again and clean the mud off their bodies.

Sea turtles also don’t require as much oxygen during hibernation. Their metabolism drops along with their body temperature. They rely on stored energy and can also breathe from their bottom. This is called cloacal breathing.

As they are cold-blooded reptiles, they stay inactive during the winter months. This is because they can’t regulate their body heat as well.

Although they are exothermic, they have some adaptions that help protect them against the cold. Exothermic means they take in heat from their environment rather than make it themselves.

This includes being large and having fatty tissue insulating them internally. They also have blood vessels in their fins that have warm blood instead of cold blood.

Where do sea turtles sleep?

Sea turtles have many places to sleep in the ocean. They sleep under rocks near the shore, reefs, and deep water’s surface.

Hatchlings also sleep at the surface, with their front flippers on their backs.

They often sleep to rest after long migration journeys. Sea turtles that sleep underwater hold their breath for hours to allow them to sleep.

Sea turtles prefer to sleep hidden or underwater for a better chance of survival. Half of their daily routine consists of sleeping, so they must find good spots to rest.

In conclusion

Sea turtles live in shallow, saltwater habitats around the world. These waters are tropical and subtropical waters. Sea turtles can’t live in arctic seas.

They don’t pick habitats based on their diet, as they are opportunistic eaters. They have evolved to eat what’s available in warm waters. This includes jellyfish, crabs, and algae, which comprise large portions of their diet.

Female sea turtles nest on warm, sandy beaches. This helps insulate the eggs and protect them. Most species of sea turtle do this in the summer months.

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