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Introduction

Sea turtles are large, air-breathing reptiles that inhabit tropical and subtropical seas throughout the world. Their shells consist of an upper part (carapace) and a lower section (plastron). Hard scales (or scutes) cover all but the leatherback, and the number and arrangement of these scutes can be used to determine the species. Sea turtles come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. The olive ridley is usually less than 100 pounds, while the leatherback typically ranges from 650 to 1,300 pounds! The upper shell, or carapace, of each sea turtle species ranges in length, color, shape and arrangement of scales. On this website you are going to learn about the seven different species of Sea turtles, and why they're endangered and how they survive with all the threats that they have to face

About Sea Turtles

Sea turtles do not have teeth, but their jaws have modified “beaks” suited to their particular diet. They do not have visible ears but have eardrums covered by skin. They hear best at low frequencies, and their sense of smell is excellent. Their vision underwater is good, but they are nearsighted out of water. Their streamlined bodies and large flippers make them remarkably adapted to life at sea. However, sea turtles maintain close ties to land.

Females must come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand; therefore, all sea turtles begin their lives as tiny hatchlings on land. Research on marine turtles has uncovered many facts about these ancient creatures. Most of this research has been focused on nesting females and hatchlings emerging from the nest, largely because they are the easiest to find and study. Thousands of sea turtles around the world have been tagged to help collect information about their growth rates, reproductive cycles and migration routes. After decades of studying sea turtles, much has been learned. However, many mysteries still remain

Where Sea Turtles are found

Sea turtles can be found in oceans except for the polar regions . The flatback sea turtle is found solely on the northern coast of Australia. The Kemp's ridley sea turtle is found solely in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States.< Sea turtles are generally found in the waters over continental shelves. During the first three to five years of life, sea turtles spend most of their time in the pelagic zone floating in seaweed mats. Green sea turtles in particular are often found in Sargassum mats, in which they find shelter and food. Once the sea turtle has reached adulthood it moves closer to the shore. Females will come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches during the nesting season.

Sea turtles migrate to reach their spawning beaches, which are limited in numbers. Living in the ocean therefore means they usually migrate over large distances. All sea turtles have large body sizes, which is helpful for moving large distances. Large body sizes also offer good protection against the large predators (notably sharks) found in the ocean.

Ecology

Diet

The loggerhead, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, and hawksbill sea turtles are omnivorous their entire life. Omnivorous turtles may eat a wide variety of plant and animal life including decapods, seagrasses, seaweed, sponges, mollusks, cnidarians, echinoderms, worms and fish. However some species specialize on certain prey. The diet of green turtles changes with age. Juveniles are omnivorous, but as they mature they become exclusively herbivorous. This diet shift has an effect on the green turtle's morphology. Green sea turtles have a serrated jaw that is used to eat sea grass and algae.

Relationship with humans

Marine sea turtles are caught worldwide, although it is illegal to hunt most species in many countries. A great deal of intentional marine sea turtle harvests worldwide are for food. Many parts of the world have long considered sea turtles to be fine dining. Ancient Chinese texts dating to the fifth century B.C.E. describe sea turtles as exotic delicacies. Many coastal communities around the world depend on sea turtles as a source of protein, often harvesting several sea turtles at once and keeping them alive on their backs until needed. Coastal peoples gather sea turtle eggs for consumption. "Manner in which Natives of the East Coast strike turtle". Near Cooktown, Australia. From Phillip Parker King's Survey. 1818.

To a much lesser extent, specific species of marine sea turtles are targeted not for their flesh, but for their shells. Tortoiseshell, a traditional decorative ornamental material used in Japan and China, comes from the carapace scutes of the hawksbill sea turtle.[58][59] Ancient Greeks and ancient Romans processed sea turtle scutes (primarily from the hawksbill) for various articles and ornaments used by their elites, such as combs and brushes. The skin of the flippers is prized for use as shoes and assorted leather goods. The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped the sea and its animals. They often depicted sea turtles in their art. Leatherback sea turtles enjoy immunity from the sting of the deadly box jellyfish and regularly eat them, helping keep tropical beaches safe for humans.

Beach towns, such as Tortuguero, Costa Rica, have transitioned from a tourism industry that made profits from selling sea turtle meat and shells to an ecotourism-based economy. Tortuguero is considered to be the founding location of sea turtle conservation. In the 1960s the cultural demand for sea turtle meat, shells, and eggs was quickly killing the once abundant sea turtle populations that nested on the beach. The Caribbean Conservation Corporation began working with villagers to promote ecotourism as a permanent substitute to sea turtle hunting. Sea turtle nesting grounds became sustainable. Tourists love to come and visit the nesting grounds, although it causes a lot of stress to the turtles because all of the eggs can get damaged or harmed.[62] Since the creation of a sea turtle, ecotourism-based economy, Tortugero annually houses thousands of tourists who visit the protected 22-mile (35 km) beach that hosts sea turtle walks and nesting grounds