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Sea Turtles - Amazing Pictures and Animal Facts Everyone Should Know

Sea Turtles

Amazing Pictures and Animal Facts Everyone Should Know

from The Animal Kids’ Books Series by

Ann Lawrence

Copyright © 2013 Ann Lawrence

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the author, except for very brief portions of the book which may be quoted for the purpose of review.

The information presented within this book has been carefully researched and checked for factual accuracy. Nonetheless, the author and publisher make no warrantee; either express or implied, that the information contained herein is appropriate to every individual, situation and purpose, and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. The reader assumes the risk and full responsibility for his or her actions, and the author and publisher will not be held responsible for any loss or damage, whether such loss or damage be consequential, incidental, special or otherwise, that may result from the information presented in this book.

The author has relied upon many sources, and her own experience, in compiling this book and has done her very best to check facts and to give credit where credit is due. Should any of the material contained in this book be inaccurate, or have been used without the proper permissions, please contact the author so that any oversight may be corrected.

Published by: WMC Publishing

FREE Bonus Quiz Book

A FREE PDF Sea Turtles quiz book accompanies this book and you will find the download link at the end of this book.

 

Table of Contents

Foreword

Introduction

Leatherback Sea Turtle

What does the leatherback look like?

Where does the leatherback live?

How long does the leatherback live?

What does the leatherback eat?

How does the leatherback reproduce?

Who are the leatherback’s enemies?

Green Sea Turtle

What does the green turtle look like?

Where does the green turtle live?

How long does the green turtle live?

What does the green sea turtle eat?

How does the green turtle reproduce?

Who are the green turtle’s enemies?

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

What does the hawksbill look like?

Where does the hawksbill live?

How long does the hawksbill live?

What does the hawksbill eat?

How does the hawksbill reproduce?

Who are the hawksbill’s enemies?

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

What does the Kemp’s look like?

Where does the Kemp’s Ridley live?

How long does the Kemp’s Ridley live?

What does the Kemp’s Ridley eat?

How does the Kemp’s Ridley reproduce?

Who are the Kemp’s Ridley’s enemies?

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

What does the loggerhead look like?

Where does the loggerhead live?

How long does the loggerhead live?

What does the loggerhead eat?

How does the loggerhead reproduce?

Who are the loggerhead’s enemies?

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

What does the olive Ridley look like?

Where does the olive Ridley live?

How long does the olive Ridley sea turtle live?

What does the olive Ridley eat?

How does the olive Ridley reproduce?

Who are the olive Ridley’s enemies?

Flatback Sea Turtle

What does the flatback look like?

Where does the flatback live?

How long does the flatback live?

What does the flatback eat?

How does the flatback reproduce?

Who are the flatback’s enemies?

Sea Turtle Fishing

Sea Turtle Conservation

Conclusion

Sea Turtle Vocabulary

 

Foreword

Throughout my life I have been fascinated by animals. I have also been fortunate enough to have traveled to almost every corner of our planet, and to see many animals living in their natural environment. Now, as my own children are adults and have children of their own, I feel that it is time for me to sit down and share, through the pages of this and similar books, the great joy that I have enjoyed from the animal kingdom for more than half a century.

I decided to start with the sea turtles, not simply because they are such beautiful animals, but because they represent one of my first and most treasured memories. As a young girl of just 8, my parents took me to see the giant leatherbacks nesting. It was an exciting nighttime expedition for a young child, and the site of those magnificent creatures hauling themselves up a tropical beach, and digging their nests, has stayed with me for more than 50 years. Indeed, it remains as vivid in my memory now as it did all those years ago.

Today, there are very few of these wonderful animals roaming our great oceans, and I hope that by telling you something of their story I can spark in you the same enthusiasm that my parents gave me as a child. At the same time, I will hopefully bring you pleasure and help these awesome, but endangered, creatures.

This book looks at each of the sea turtles in turn and considers such things as what they look like, where they live, and what they eat. It also considers the future of the sea turtle in an uncertain world. Finally, the book provides you with a great quiz to test your knowledge on sea turtles.

I have made considerably use of pictures throughout the book, which children of all ages will enjoy, but the text of the book is more suited to older children, and of course to adults of all ages.

I hope you enjoy your journey into the beautiful undersea world of these ancient creatures.

Ann Lawrence

 

Introduction

Sea turtles have been around for a very long time, and it might surprise you to know just how long. Unlike the sea turtles we see today, their ancestors lived in marshy areas on land and were much larger than even the largest of today’s species.

The oldest fossil remains of a turtle were found in Germany, and date back some 215 million years. That takes us to a time when animals were just starting to emerge from the water and live on land. These were the days of the primitive reptiles and very early dinosaurs. And, perhaps more importantly, this was more than 200 million years before primitive man began to walk on the face of the earth.

 

One of the most complete records of an early turtle was discovered in South Dakota during the 1970s, and is over 70 million years old. From the tip of its beak to the end of its tail it measures some 15 feet, and from the tip of one front flipper to the tip of the other, it is some 16½ feet across. Weighing 4,500 pounds, this is believed to have been one of the largest ever species of turtle, and is known as Archelon ischyros (pronounced Ar-key-lon is-key-ros).

 

Today’s sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles that spend their entire lives at sea, with only the females returning briefly from time to time to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles fall into one of two groups:

Dermochelyidae (pronounced Der-mo-kal-eye-e-die) is the group that represents the most ancient of sea turtles, and today contains only a single species – the leatherback. This is also the only species of sea turtle that does not have a hard shell.

Cheloniidae (pronounced Kel-on-eye-e-die) is the group that contains today’s hard shelled sea turtles, and there are 6 species in this group–the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the olive Ridley sea turtle and the flatback sea turtle.

Sea turtles range widely in size, with the leatherback typically growing to between 4 and 6 feet in length, but sometimes reaching as much as 8 feet. At the other end of the scale, is the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which typically reached only 2 feet in length.

 

So, let’s enter the wonderful world of the sea turtles and take a look at each species individually, starting with the giant of sea turtles – the leatherback.

 

Leatherback Sea Turtle

The leatherback is the only sea turtle that does not have scales and a hard shell, or carapace. It takes its name from its tough, rubbery skin, that has a ‘leathery’ feel and appearance, and which is supported by a mass of small bones found just below the skin.

What does the leatherback look like?

The leatherback is the largest of the sea turtles, and adults can grow up to 8 feet in length and to a weight of as much as 1,300 pounds. Their skin is largely black with white and pink spots on the head, neck and carapace. The underside of the body (known as the ‘plastron’) has a mottled appearance, again of black, white and pink.

 

Where does the leatherback live?

Leatherbacks enjoy tropical, and sub-tropical, waters and are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They are however much stronger swimmers than the other sea turtles and can therefore migrate very considerable distances between their nesting and feeding grounds. Their circulatory system is also specially adapted to cope with survival at lower temperatures, and so they are frequently found farther north, and in colder waters, than those visited by other sea turtles.

How long does the leatherback live?

Leatherback turtles grow faster, and mature earlier, than other sea turtles but, while it is believed that they are very long lived, no reliable statistics are available.

What does the leatherback eat?

Leatherback turtles dine largely on jellyfish, as well as on sea squirts and other soft-bodied sea creatures. A specially adapted mouth, with scissor-like jaws and a lining of backward pointing stiff spines, helps them to swallow their prey.

 

How does the leatherback reproduce?

A female leatherback nests every 2 to 3 years on her natal beach (the beach on which she was born) and lays between 5 and 7 clutches of 60 to 100 eggs every 9 or 10 days. Nesting sites are spread across the world, and can be found as far afield as Florida, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, French Guyana and Malaysia.

 

Strangely only about two-thirds of the eggs laid contain a yolk, and these will hatch after about 60 or 70 days. The remaining one-third of slightly smaller ‘yolkless’ eggs represent something of a mystery, and scientists are at a loss to explain the purpose of these eggs.

 

Who are the leatherback’s enemies?

Raccoons and crabs will feed on the leatherback hatchlings as they emerge, and these predators will be joined by both seabirds and fish to prey upon those hatchlings that make it as far as the water.

The only real enemies for the adult leatherback are sharks and man.

In some countries female leatherback nests are regularly raided and their eggs collected, while the females are killed for their meat. However, it is construction which destroys their nesting sites, together with fishing, boating and marine debris which takes the greatest number of leatherback lives every year.

 

 

Green Sea Turtle

The adult green turtle eats sea grass and algae and this results in a green colored layer of fat being deposited just under the turtle’s shell. It is this layer of fat that gives this turtle the name ‘green’.

What does the green turtle look like?

Although called the green turtle, most green turtles do not look green at all, and their color can vary widely from shades of black and gray through olive green, to brown and even yellow. Their shells can also often have a very clear pattern, and even stripes or black and white spots. Sometimes, they also look green simply because the conditions in which they are living allow green algae to grow and cover part of the shell.

 

Although they have a relatively small head, the green turtle is one of the larger hard-shelled turtles, and can grow to more than 3 feet in length and to a weight of 300 to 350 pounds.

Where does the green turtle live?

Green turtles like tropical, or sub-tropical, waters and can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They tend to live in communities and will often travel very long distances between their feeding and nesting grounds. One exception to this rule however is the Hawaiian green turtle, which tends to spend its entire life within a community that stays close to the Hawaiian Islands.

 

How long does the green turtle live?

Green turtles can live for a very long time, and commonly reach the age of 80. Scientists believe, however, that it is not uncommon for green turtles to live to be more than 100 years old.

What does the green sea turtle eat?

Unlike other sea turtles, the green turtle is herbivorous and eats mainly sea grass and algae.

 

How does the green turtle reproduce?

Female green turtles mature at anywhere from about 25 years of age to 50 years of age and, at that point, they return every 2 to 4 years to the beach on which they themselves were born to lay their eggs. Nesting takes place between May and September, with most female turtles nesting during June and July.

Nesting is hard work, with the large female dragging herself up the beach at night to find a suitable nesting spot, and then digging a wide pit with her front flippers, and a smaller egg chamber with her rear flippers. She will then lay approximately 110 to 120 eggs, before covering the nest and returning to the sea. In most cases the female will repeat this process every 12 to 14 days, laying an average of 5 clutches of eggs each nesting season.

 

How quickly the eggs will hatch depends upon the temperature of the sand, which also effects the gender of the young. For example, a high sand temperature will reduce the hatching time and produce more females, while a low sand temperature will result in a longer time to hatching, and more male turtles. On average, however, the young turtles will emerge at night after about 60 days.

On the dark nighttime beach, the young turtles are attracted by the light reflected by the movement of the ocean water, and scramble down the beach and into the ocean. In an increasing number of cases these days encroachment by man means that artificial lighting causes disorientation for the young hatchlings, leading them away from the water, often into danger and, all too frequently, to their early death.

Who are the green turtle’s enemies?

Young hatchling turtles are extremely vulnerable and many will fall prey, literally as they are hatching, to seabirds, crabs and land animals, such as raccoons. Once they make it to the water, they are still threatened by seabirds, as well as by several species of fish.

The only real threat to the adult green turtle is the shark, and here turtles will often lose a flipper to a shark attack.

That said, man discovered the green turtle some 500 years ago in Central America and brought some populations to near extinction, as they were hunted for their eggs and meat, as well as for their skin and shells, which were used to make leather goods and jewelery.

Today man continues to threaten populations of green turtles, which are often caught during commercial fishing operations using shrimp trawls, gill nets and long lines. Some efforts are being made to combat this problem, such as the increasing use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs). A turtle excluder device is essentially a series of bars that are fitted into the trawl so that small creatures, such as shrimps, can enter the net, but larger creatures, like turtles and sharks, are prevented from doing so.

Green turtles are also under attack as man pollutes the environment and takes over their natural breeding grounds for construction and recreation.

 

 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

The hawksbill sea turtle has a very distinctive shape to its head, which tapers to a point. This, combined with the very clear ‘V’ shape of the lower jaw, results in a beak-like mouth and a resemblance to a hawk, which gives this turtle its name.

What does the hawksbill look like?

The hawksbill is a medium-sized turtle, with adults typically being between 2½ feet and 3 feet in length, and weighing anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds. The shell, or carapace, is made up of thick overlapping scales, known as scutes, and these are normally amber in color and often quite beautifully patterned.

 

Where does the hawksbill live?

The hawksbill turtle enjoys tropical, and sub-tropical, waters and they can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. As young adults they can frequently be found in the open ocean but, as they grow older, they move into coastal waters, where they are most often found living on coral reefs.

How long does the hawksbill live?

There is not enough data available to say just how long the hawksbill turtle lives but, like the other sea turtles, it is believed that their lifespan is similar to, or slightly longer than, that of humans.

What does the hawksbill eat?

The hawksbill’s diet is composed largely of sponges, and their narrow and sharp beaks are especially suited to foraging for prey amongst the crevices of the coral reef.

 

How does the hawksbill reproduce?

A mature female hawksbill returns to her natal beach every 2 or 3 years between the months of June and November, and will lay between 4 and 5 large clutches of about 160 eggs at 14 day intervals. Where possible, the female likes to dig a nest chamber in deep beach-side vegetation, beneath a giant sea grape tree. Where this is not possible, however, she will simply dig a shallow nest, and egg chamber, in the open sand of the beach.

The hatchlings will emerge after some 50–60 days, and the young turtles will head for the sea, attracted by the light reflected from the water.

 

Who are the hawksbill’s enemies?

The hawksbill’s nest is very often raided by predators even before the eggs have a chance to develop, and a range of animals including mongooses, opossums, raccoons, skunks, ghost crabs, and even dogs, will dig up and eat the eggs.

Once they hatch, the young turtles are also very vulnerable to attack, and many will be taken by various nocturnal mammals, as well as by seabirds and fish.

For the adult hawksbill the only natural predator is the shark.

Man of course also poses a threat to the hawksbill and, to some extent, this results from the commercial exploitation of the quite beautiful hawksbill carapace. Today, however, it is things like commercial fishing and the development of the hawksbill’s natural habitat for tourism and recreation, that poses the greatest threat to this quite beautiful animal.

 

 

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

How this turtle got its name is something of a mystery. The name ‘Kemp’ comes from the name of the Key West fisherman, Richard Kemp, who first discovered the turtle and sent a specimen to Harvard for cataloguing. Nobody seems to know however where the name ‘Ridley’ comes from.

What does the Kemp’s look like?

The Kemp’s Ridley is the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults growing to some 2 to 2½ feet in length and a weight of around 80 to 120 pounds. The Kemp Ridley has a wide oval, but almost round, carapace that is olive gray in color, and the underside of the carapace (known as the plastron) is a yellowish white in color.

 

Where does the Kemp’s Ridley live?

Kemp’s Ridley turtles are found in the coastal waters of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. Common along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia, they can be found as far north as New England during the warm weather of the summer and early fall.

How long does the Kemp’s Ridley live?

The Kemp’s Ridley reaches maturity at about 12 years of age and, while no accurate figures are available on its lifespan, it is believed to enjoy a long life.

What does the Kemp’s Ridley eat?

As youngsters, and young adults, Kemp’s Ridley turtles live offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed on plants and small animals that live on mats of floating algae. As they grow older they move inshore, and their diet changes to largely one of crabs.

How does the Kemp’s Ridley reproduce?

Mature females nest between April and July, and the Kemp’s and olive Ridley sea turtles are the only sea turtles to come ashore to nest during the hours of daylight. Females typically lay 2 to 3 clutches of approximately 100 pliable, ping-pong ball sized eggs each nesting season, and return to lay about every 1 to 3 years. The eggs take about 50–70 days to incubate, before the young hatchlings emerge.

 

Mass nesting is common for the Kemp’s Ridley turtle, with large numbers of turtles coming ashore to nest as a community. This is often referred to as an ‘Arribada’, a Spanish word meaning arrival, and it is believed that the Kemp’s Ridley has adopted this form of behavior as a defense against predators.

The vast majority of nesting today takes place on the Gulf of Mexico beaches of Tamaulipasan, south of the US/Mexican border.

Who are the Kemp’s Ridley’s enemies?

The young Kemp’s Ridley hatchlings are preyed upon by raccoons and seabirds as they emerge from their nest, and by seabirds and fish, once they make it to the sea. Adult turtles also fall prey from time to time to sharks.

 

As with so many animals today, the greatest danger for the Kemp’s Ridley turtle comes from man. While the collection of eggs for eating, and the killing of turtles for their meat, is much less common today than it once was, it still goes on. Nevertheless, it is the inadvertent killing of turtles by commercial fishermen using shrimp trawls, nets and long lines, and the destruction of nesting habitats as the result of construction, and the use of beaches for tourism and recreation, that causes the greatest threat.

In 1947 a video taken of nesting Kemp’s Ridley turtles showed some 40,000 nests on just the main nesting beach in Mexico. Forty years later this number had fallen to a total of just 700 nests for an entire nesting season. Fortunately, this downward trend has now been reversed and the number of nests is climbing again. However, there are still far too few nests appearing every year and numbers remain at something like only 25% of the 1947 levels.

 

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The loggerhead sea turtle is so named simply because it has a very large head.

What does the loggerhead look like?

The adult loggerhead can reach up to nearly 4 feet in length and ranges anywhere from about 170 to 500 pounds in weight. The carapace is reddish-brown in color, and the loggerhead has a yellow plastron.

 

Where does the loggerhead live?

Loggerhead turtles live in sub-tropical and temperate waters and, while juveniles spend their first 7 to 12 years traveling around the ocean, they later return to live along the shoreline. The loggerhead is the commonest sea turtle found in the south-eastern United States, and they nest along the Atlantic shores of several states including, Florida, Georgia and both North and South Carolina. They also nest along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

How long does the loggerhead live?

There are no reliable statistics available on the lifespan of the loggerhead turtle, but they are believed to live for more than 50 years.

What does the loggerhead eat?

The loggerhead is a carnivorous sea turtle and eats other animals. For the young hatchling, this means feeding on small creatures living amongst the sea grasses, or sargassum, while adults feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates like horseshoe crabs, mollusks, whelks and sea urchins.

 

How does the loggerhead reproduce?

A female loggerhead matures late in life, at about 35 years of age, and then returns to her natal beach every 2 to 3 years to nest. About 4 clutches of 100 to 125 eggs will be laid at 14 day intervals between April and September, and the eggs will hatch out after approximately 60 days.

As with the green sea turtle, temperature determines how long the incubation period is and, to a certain extent, the gender of the young hatchlings. For example, cooler temperature will lead to a longer incubation period and more male turtles, while higher temperatures will shorten the time to hatching and result in the birth of more female turtles.

 

Who are the loggerhead’s enemies?

Loggerhead nests are often raided by wild pigs and raccoons, and the young hatchlings emerging from the nest are frequently picked off by raccoons and ghost crabs. Once in the water, the young hatchlings are easy prey for seabirds and fish.

In the case of adult loggerheads, their only real enemies are sharks and man.

Development in coastal areas is responsible for the destruction of many nesting sites, and large numbers of turtles are drowned each year as they are caught up in shrimp trawls, fishing nets and long lines. Loggerhead turtles are also frequently killed by boats, and by ingesting debris carelessly discarded into the sea.

 

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Like the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the origin of the name for the olive Ridley sea turtle is something of a mystery. The olive Ridley was first described in 1798 and went through several name changes before finally being named Lepidochelys olivacea in 1829. Olivacea in the name refers to the turtle’s olive green carapace, and it is from this that it gets the English name ‘olive’ today. What nobody seems to know is where the name ‘Ridley’ comes from.

What does the olive Ridley look like?

Olive Ridley sea turtles are very similar in appearance to Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. Adults grow to a length of 2 to 2½ feet and to a weight of 100 pounds. The carapace, which is often described as being shaped like a rounded heart, ranges in color from olive to a grayish brown, or even to grey or black in color.

 

Where does the olive Ridley live?

Olive Ridley sea turtles enjoy tropical waters, and are most commonly found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and nesting along the shores of the Indian Ocean, American tropics and the north-eastern cost of South America.

How long does the olive Ridley sea turtle live?

No reliable data is available on the lifespan of the olive Ridley sea turtle, but scientists believe that it enjoys a long life.

What does the olive Ridley eat?

Within the Atlantic Ocean, and the Eastern Pacific, olive Ridleys feed largely on jellyfish, shrimp, rock lobster and crabs. In other parts of the world, olive Ridleys eat mainly algae.

 

How does the olive Ridley reproduce?

A female olive Ridley will mature between the ages of 10 and 15 years and will then return to her natal beach every 1 to 3 years to lay her eggs at night. The nesting season extends from June to December, although the majority of nests will be constructed during September and October. A female will lay up to 3 clutches of eggs each season, although most lay only 1 or 2 clutches, and each clutch consists of approximately 100 eggs, that will take about 55 days to hatch.

 

Like the Kemp’s Ridley, mass nesting is common for the olive Ridley turtle, with large numbers of turtles nesting as a community. This is once again referred to as an ‘Arribada’, a Spanish word meaning arrival, and it is a form of behavior that scientists believe has been adopted as a defense against predators.

 

Who are the olive Ridley’s enemies?

Crabs and raccoons feed on the young hatchlings as they emerge and start to make their way towards the water and, once in the water, they will continue to be picked off by sea birds and fish. For the adults, sharks are the main natural predator, but perhaps the biggest problem for the olive Ridley is man.

Man has exploited the olive Ridleys for many years, collecting their eggs from the beach, and killing the adult females for their meat and leather. Indeed, historically, the olive Ridley fishery in Mexico represented the world’s largest turtle fishery, with turtle products reaching high prices in countries such as Japan.

Today, man continues to pose a significant threat, with many turtles dying as the result of commercial fishing, coastal development, and pollution.

 

Flatback Sea Turtle

While most sea turtles have a fairly high domed carapace, the flatback has a fairly flat and smooth shell, which accounts for its name. The flatback sea turtle is also often referred to as the Australian flatback.

What does the flatback look like?

The flatback’s carapace is wide, turned up at the edges, and is covered in a thin fleshy skin. The carapace is usually either yellow-gray or olive-gray in color, and the plastron is a pale yellow. The flatback is a medium-sized sea turtle, growing to a length of 3 feet and a weight of 100 to 150 pounds.

 

Where does the flatback live?

Flatback turtles are native to Australia, with all of the recorded rookeries, or nesting beaches, being found in Australia, including the largest on Crab Island, off the Northwest coast of Cape York Peninsula. Unlike other sea turtles, the flatback does not roam the oceans, but remains along the continental shelf, preferring inshore waters, and estuaries.

How long does the flatback live?

As with most of the sea turtles, we do not know how long the flatback turtle can live, but it is thought to enjoy a long life.

What does the flatback eat?

The flatback is an omnivore and likes to feed on the soft-bottomed seabed of shallow inshore waters eating crabs, mollusks, jellies, sea cucumbers, soft corals, shrimp, fish and seaweed.

How does the flatback reproduce?

The nesting season for flatbacks runs from November to January although, along the coast of the Northern Territories, nesting occurs all year round, and peaks during August. The flatback nests every 2 to 3 years and lays several small clutches of 50 to 70 eggs at 14 day internals. The eggs are unusually large for a turtle of this size, being similar in size to those of the much larger leatherback sea turtle, and hatch within 44 to 68 days, depending on temperatures.

 

Who are the flatback’s enemies?

Flatback eggs are frequently eaten by dogs and foxes, as well as by pigs, which have a very keen sense of smell and can easily find the nests. Once the hatchlings emerge they are vulnerable to attack by lizards, crabs, seabirds, saltwater crocodiles and fish.

Adult flatbacks often fall prey to crocodiles and, like all of the sea turtles, are at risk from the activities of man, especially in the areas of fishing, coastal development and pollution.

Sea Turtle Fishing

Although these beautiful creatures have existed here on Earth for many millions of years, today sea turtles are very much endangered and may not be around for very much longer, unless we take steps to ensure their survival.

Turtle eggs and meat have been eaten by humans for many hundreds of years, and formed a very important part of the diet for those explorers traveling to the New World.

 

It was no surprise therefore to find that turtling became a very important part of the American and Mexican fishing industries during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Figures are not easy to come by, but clearly many thousands of turtles were killed every year, and raiding the nesting sites for eggs meant that populations were simply not being replaced with young turtles.

 

Fishing methods varied widely, but included gill netting, seining, harpooning, diving and turning, which simply meant flipping the female turtles onto their backs when they came ashore to nest. The commonest method however was gill netting, and boats would return from fishing trips with their holds filled with turtles.

 

Commercial fishing for turtles continued into the 1970s, with annual landings of sea turtles reaching over 200,000 pounds.

 

By 1973 however sea turtle populations had declined dramatically and legislation in the form of the US Endangered Species Act finally provided the means to prevent the extinction of these magnificent animals.

Their numbers are however now dangerously low, and they continue to suffer at the hands of man, who is destroying their natural breeding grounds through construction work, as well as polluting their feeding grounds.

As a result the sea turtle is not out of the wood yet, and their continued survival depends now upon ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

 

Sea Turtle Conservation

Man has inhabited the Earth for an extremely short period of time and yet, during our short existence, we have done more to destroy our planet than would seem possible. Fortunately, we are beginning to wake up to what we are doing and, more importantly, are taking steps to not simply halt the destruction that we are doing, but to reverse its effects in many areas.

As a young child I can remember my parents taking me to see the leatherback turtles nesting on the east coast of Malaya (modern day Malaysia) and the memory of that trip, more than 50 years ago now, is as vivid today as it was when we made the trip.

The world in those days was very different to the world we see today. For example, the African hunting safari was still a favorite holiday for many people. Today, safaris are still enjoyed my many people, but now they shoot animals with telephoto camera lenses, instead of high-powered rifles.

Fifty years ago, turtle fishing was also is full swing, and thousands of these beautiful animals were being caught, killed and eaten every year.

Today, education has thankfully turned the hunter into the conservationist, and groups from around the world are now working hard to protect sea turtles and to reverse the destruction of their nesting grounds and reduce the pollution that endangers so many species today.

 

I have been fortunate enough to take my own children to watch the turtles laying, and my grandchildren will soon be old enough for me to take them on a similar expedition. My greatest hope today is that they too will be able to take their children, and grandchildren, on similar expeditions.

 

Conclusion

Well, that brings us to the end of this brief, but I hope fascinating, peek into the world of the sea turtles. It also brings us to the end of the first book in The Animal Kids’ Books Series, which will introduce you to a whole host of wonderful animals – past and present.

To see what other wonders of the animal world I have in store for you, please drop by my author’s page regularly and keep you eye out for my exciting new releases.

I hope to see you there very soon.

Ann Lawrence

Visit my author page at:

WMCPublishing.com/Ann-Lawrence

Don’t forget to pick up your Free Sea Turtle Quiz Book – You will find the link for this at the very end of this book.

 

 

Sea Turtle Vocabulary

Listed below are some words that you may well come across when talking about sea turtles. Refer to the list whenever you need to, or simply use the list to help to increase your vocabulary.

ADULT. A member of the population that has reached sexual maturity. Sea turtles often reach sexual maturity depending on their size, rather than after a specific number of years. As a result, the age at sexual maturity can vary considerably and depends on a number of factors, like the quality and quantity of food available.

ARRIBADA. The emergence of a group of Ridley turtles onto a nesting beach. Mating pairs gather in large numbers and this is followed by mass nesting by the females, normally over a period of several days. Other terms used for this phenomenon include arribazons, morrinas, and flotas.

BASKING. Exposing the body, or part of the body, to the warmth of the sun.

BEACH RENOURISHMENT. Replenishing sand on a beach following loss resulting from erosion. Because new sand may have characteristics that are different from the natural sand, a renourished beach might not be quite as attractive to nesting turtles.

BEAK. A horny covering of the jaws. In turtles this consists of a single plate over each jaw surface. The beak is also called the rhamphotheca or tomium.

BEKKO. The scutes of the hawksbill turtle that are used for the manufacture of a variety of different items, including jewelry. Also look at: tortoise shell.

BODY PIT. The depression that the female turtle digs while nesting. Body pits are characteristic of specific species and range from the shallow pit dug by the Ridleys turtle, to the quite deep pits dog by green turtles and leatherbacks.

BRIDGE. That part of the sea turtle’s shell that connects the carapace to the plastron.

BYCATCH. Organisms that are caught incidentally, or by accident, when fishing, where the organism is not the target of the fishing operation. Also look at: incidental catch.

CALIPASH. A generally green colored dorsal layer of gelatinous fat in the body, and in the flippers, that can be used to make soup.

CALIPEE. The cartilage found on the ventral surface of the body, and principally in the plastron. This can be used to make soup and the word “calipee” is often used nowadays to include calipash.

CARAPACE. The shell, or bony shield, that covers all or part of the top (dorsal) side of an animal. In this case, the top (dorsal) shell of a turtle.

CARETTA CARETTA. The name for the loggerhead sea turtle. The generic name Caretta was introduced by Rafinesque in 1814, wile the specific name caretta was first used by Linnaeus in 1758. The name Caretta is a latinized version of the French word “caret”, which means turtle, tortoise, or sea turtle.

CARNIVORE. An animal that feeds, or preys, on other animals. A meat eater.

CARUNCLE. A temporary egg tooth found on a hatchling. A horny tubercle on the snout of a baby turtle that it uses to cut through the eggshell.

CHELONIA MYDAS. The name for the green sea turtle. The generic name Chelonia was introduced by Brongniart in 1800, while the specific name mydas had first been used by Linnaeus in 1758.

CITES. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES is an international trade agreement designed to both monitor and control the trade in various species that are listed on the agreement’s appendices. All 7 species of sea turtle are listed on Appendix I. This is the most restrictive appendix and commercial trade in wild specimens or products is prohibited between member countries.

CLUTCH. The number of eggs that a turtle lays at any one time. Another way to look at a clutch is as the number of eggs deposited in a single nest.

COMMENSAL. One organism that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with another organism such that one member in the relationship (the commensal) gains an advantage, while the other is neither advantaged nor disadvantaged. For sea turtles, barnacles are common commensals.

CONSERVATION. The careful protection and preservation of something, particularly applied to the planned management of a natural resource so that it is not neglected, exploited or destroyed.

CRAWL. The tracks made by a sea turtle on the beach. The term “track” is used interchangeably with crawl. Also look at: false crawl.

DERMOCHELYS CORIACEA. The name of the leatherback sea turtle. The generic name Dermochelys was introduced by Blainville in 1816, while the specific name coriacea was first used by Vandelli in 1761, and later adopted by Linneaus in 1766.

DEVELOPMENTAL HABITAT. The area in which immature turtles feed and grow to reach adult size. In some cases the developmental habitat for a group of sea turtles may not correspond to the adult habitat and, where this happens, special conservation and management techniques are needed.

DISORIENTATION. The outcome from using inappropriate cues to direct movement. For example, hatchling sea turtles may move inland attracted by street lighting, instead of heading towards the sea.

DIURNAL. Taking place during the day, frequently in daily cycles.

DOOMED EGGS. Eggs laid in natural nests that are almost certain to be destroyed during incubation by natural and predictable causes. Such causes might include beach erosion and tidal flooding.

DRIFT LINES. Long masses of seaweed and floating debris that frequently form where ocean currents meet. Hatchling sea turtles often take refuge in drift lines.

ECTOTHERMIC. An animal, including the majority of reptiles, whose body temperature is determined by the ambient, or outside, temperature, rather than being generated within its own body. Such animals used to be called “cold blooded”. While it can be argued that the leatherback is not ectothermic, the other sea turtles most certainly are.

EGG CHAMBER. A hole dug by a female sea turtle with her rear flippers, into which her eggs are laid.

EMERGENCE. In the case of an adult female, this is the action of leaving the water and coming onto land to nest. In the case of a hatchling, this is the process of breaking through the surface of the beach above the nest.

ENDANGERED. Any group that is likely to become extinct within the foreseeable future if the condition under which they are living continue to exist.

EPIBIONT. An organism that is living on another organism. In the case of the sea turtle a barnacle attached to the shell would be an example of this.

ERETMOCHELYS IMBRICATA. The name of the hawksbill sea turtle. The generic name Eretmochelys means “oar turtle”, while the specific name imbricata is a reference to the over-lapping nature of the scutes that make up the carapace.

EVOLUTION. A cumulative change in the inherited characteristics of a group of organisms that is seen through successive generations, where such generations are related by descent. Evolution is the result of “natural selection,” and has no predetermined endpoint.

EXTINCT. A species, subspecies, or population which no longer exists.

EXTINCTION. A process, that can be either man-induced or natural, in which a species, subspecies, or population ceases to exist.

FALSE CRAWL. The track that is left by a female sea turtle that has crawled up onto a beach, but returned to the water without laying her eggs.

FARMING. The culture of sea turtles in a closed-cycle system for commercial purposes. Apart from initial stocking, and the occasional need to bring in specimens to ensure genetic diversity, farming does not rely on wild populations. This is in contrast to the practice of “ranching”.

FERAL. Animals (normally pets or livestock) that have reverted to the wild after escaping, or being released, from captivity. Feral dogs are significant predators of sea turtles in many parts of the Caribbean.

FIBROPAPILLOMAS. Tumors that grow on the skin, around the eyes, in the mouth, and on the viscera of sea turtles. This is a life-threatening disease for the sea turtle, as these lesions can impair its ability to see, swim, eat, and even to breathe.

FORAGING. Looking for food. The areas in which turtles feed are known as foraging habitats or foraging grounds.

GULAR SCUTE. The front-most paired, or occasionally single, scute of the plastron, other than in those sea turtle species where the paired gular scutes are separated by an intergular scute.

HABITAT. The particular place within the natural environment in which either an animal or plant lives.

HALF-MOON TRACK. A semicircular, or similarly shaped, track made by a turtle that crawls up onto the beach, but which then turns around almost immediately and returns to the water without nesting. The half-moon track is a type of false crawl.

HATCHERY. A man-made enclosure constructed for the incubation of eggs.

HATCHING. The process of leaving the egg once development is completed. Also look at: emergence, hatchling.

HATCHLING. A young, or baby, turtle that has recently emerged from its egg.

HEAD-STARTING. An experimental practice in which hatchling turtles are raised in captivity for the first few weeks, or months, of life.

HERBIVORE. An animal, like the green sea turtle, which feeds exclusively (or almost exclusively) on plants.

IMBRICATE. Overlapping, in the manner of shingles on a roof, or the scutes that make up the carapace of the hawksbill sea turtle.

IMMATURE. An animal which has yet to reach sexual maturity. Also look at: juvenile.

IMPRINTING. The process by which a hatchling turtle receives a ‘map’ of its natal beach, so that it can relocate the beach when it becomes an adult, and it is time to return to nest.

INBREEDING. The mating of closely related individuals.

INCIDENTAL CATCH. The unintended capture of a species (like the sea turtle) while fishing for another species (like shrimp). Also look at: bycatch.

INCUBATION. The development period between egg laying and hatching. In sea turtles, incubation normally takes 50-75 days, depending on the ambient temperature, but varies between species.

INTERNESTING INTERVAL. The time period between successful nestings within a single nesting season. This period is typically 10-17 days for the majority of species, but can be up to 28 days for Ridley sea turtles.

INVERTEBRATE. An animal that does not have a backbone

JUVENILE. An animal that has not yet reached its full size or strength, and that is sexually immature. For sea turtles the distinction between a juvenile and an adult is not well defined, as it can take as long as 50 years to reach sexual maturity, and different species, and indeed populations within a species, have very different growth rates. There is a further complicated in the case of sea turtles, because there is very little, if any, correlation between size and age in sea turtles. Also look at: immature.

KRAAL. An enclosure or, in the case of sea turtles, a protected enclosure around nests on a beach. Also look at: hatchery. Traditionally, the term kraal was used to mean a pen constructed in the water and used to hold turtles for anywhere from a few days to several months before slaughter.

LEPIDOCHELYS KEMPII. The name of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. This turtle was named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman interested in natural history who submitted the type specimen from Key West, Florida. The species was allocated to the genus Lepidochelys by Fitzinger in 1843 and by Baur in 1890, when it was realized that Kemp’s Ridley and the Indo-Pacific “olive” Ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea, were congeneric. Lepidochelys is derived from a Greek word meaning “scaly”.

LEPIDOCHELYS OLIVACEA. The name of the olive Ridley sea turtle. The generic name Lepidochelys was introduced by Fitzinger in 1843, while the specific name olivacea was first used by Eschscholtz in 1829. Lepidochelys is derived from a Greek root meaning “scaly”. The common name may also come from the often olive green color of the carapace.

LOST YEAR. The period of time (usually several years) between hatching and the point at which a turtle’s carapace reaches a length of 20-30 cm. During this period sea turtles are rarely encountered.

MARGINALS. The scutes that are found around the margins of the carapace. These tend to overlie the peripheral bones.

MIGRATION. The movement of animals from one place to another. Sea turtle migrations are usually a case of movement between feeding grounds and nesting sites, and are particularly noticeable in the green and leatherback sea turtles. The cues that spark and direct sea turtles during migration remain largely a mystery.

NATURAL SELECTION. The natural process in which organisms leave differentially more or less offspring than other individuals, because they possess certain inherited advantages or disadvantages. Individuals with certain inherited advantages that allow them to survive, reproduce and produce more offspring than individuals without these advantages. By contrast, individuals with inherited disadvantages die too early to bear offspring, or are sterile, or their offspring are less likely to survive than offspring of individuals with such disadvantages.

NEONATE. A recently hatched individual.

NESTING. The process of laying eggs in a nest cavity on a beach. This term is frequently used interchangeably with breeding.

NICHE. The ecological role of a species within its environment, that is defined by such things as what it eats, and who eats it.

NOCTURNAL. Taking place at night. For most species of sea turtle, nesting is a nocturnal activity.

OLFACTION. The use of the sense of smell. It is believed that olfaction plays a part in nest site selection, imprinting, and migration.

OMNIVORE. An animal which eats both plant and animal matter.

ORIENTATION CIRCLE. A circular pattern that appears in the track of a sea turtle, particularly the leatherback, as the adult female crawls up the beach to nest, or moves down the beach towards the sea. This pattern is also made by hatchlings as they crawl to the sea. It is thought that this pattern results from the direction-finding behavior of the sea turtle.

OVIPAROUS. Offspring that develop from fertilized eggs and hatch outside of the mother’s body.

OVIPOSITION. The process of laying eggs.

PELAGIC. An organism, like a young sea turtle, that lives in the open ocean.

PHALANGES. The elongate finger or toe bones that are found in the flippers of sea turtles.

PIPPING. The process by which the hatchling breaks out of the egg shell.

PIVOTAL TEMPERATURE. The narrow band of temperature during the incubation period that can cause an abrupt change in the sex ratio of hatchlings from nearly all males to all females. Some authors refer to this as the “threshold temperature”.

PLASTRON. The lower (ventral) shell covering the underside of a sea turtle.

POPULATION. A group of organisms, belonging to the same species and occupying a reasonably well defined locality, that exhibits reproductive continuity from one generation to the next. Also look at: species.

PREDATOR. An animal which hunts and eats other animals. Sea turtles represent important predators in the oceanic food chain.

PREFRONTAL SCALES. Thin, flattened, plate like structures that are located between the eyes of sea turtles, and which can be used to help distinguish between the different species.

RAFTING. Passive drifting, usually on another object. This term is sometimes used to describe green turtle hatchlings as they drift in floating sargassum seaweed.

RANCHING. The practice of raising sea turtles from eggs or hatchlings to meet a set commercial market size. In contrast to “farming” this is not a closed-cycle system and it relies on wild populations as a source for either eggs or hatchlings.

RARE. Small world populations that, while they are not endangered or threatened, are nonetheless at risk.

REMIGRATION. The return of adult sea turtles to a particular breeding area in succeeding years. Depending on the species, remigration usually occurs on cycle ranging from one to four years.

ROOKERY. The nesting location for a population of sea turtles. The term rookery can be used to refer to one species (for instance, to the green turtle rookery at Tortuguero, Costa Rica) or to an area of general sea turtle nesting (for example, the Guianas).

SCALE. The thin, flattened, plate-like structures which cover the bodies of certain animals, including sea turtles and other reptiles.

SCUTES. The horny scales that cover both the bony carapace and plastron, found on all but the leatherback sea turtle.

SEA-FINDING BEHAVIOR. The process by which hatchlings correctly orient themselves towards the sea after emerging from the nest. The cues involved in sea-finding behavior are poorly understood, although it is clear that light plays an important role.

SPECIES. A term that describes a type of animal or plant that can interbreed successfully with members of the same type. They may mate with similar organisms from the same genus and that bear considerable resemblance to them, but either cannot bear offspring as a result, or such offspring are sterile or have distinct survival disadvantages. Also look at: taxon and taxonomy.

SPONGIVORE. An organism, like the hawksbill sea turtle, which specializes in feeding on sponges.

SUBADULT. A turtle approaching sexual maturity. Also look at: juvenile.

SUBSISTENCE CAPTURE. The capture of sea turtles by people living in close contact with the sea may be customary, traditional, and necessary for the sustenance of the individuals concerned, and their families. Such “subsistence capture” is not classed as external market-oriented commerce.

SURVIVAL RATE. The percentage of individuals that survive from one developmental stage, year class, or life stage to the next.

SWIMMING FRENZY. A period of heightened activity, or rapid swimming, of hatchlings out to sea after they emerge from the nest. This swimming frenzy can last for several days and is thought to aid the hatchlings in getting clear of the surf and reaching a habitat that is safe for their development.

TAG. A physical means used to identify sea turtles and including uniquely painted or colored marks, tattoos, holes drilled in the carapace margin, flipper tags, coded wire tags, living tags, and PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags. The returns of tags by fishermen and other people provides clues to the movements of sea turtles.

TAGGING. The act of placing a tag on a sea turtle to aid in its recognition when it is found at a later date.

TAKE. To harass, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect a particular species or animal, or to attempt to engage in such activities.

TAXON (pl. taxa). A unit of classification; namely, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, or species — includes subcategories of these, as well.

TAXONOMY. The science of classification, of describing, naming and assigning organisms to taxa. Classification should ideally be based upon systematic relationships, i.e., of inherited characteristics of behavior, morphology, physiology, or tissue and blood chemistry. Usually a combination of measurements and/or characteristics are used.

TURTLE EXCLUDER DEVICE (TED). A device that is used in shrimp trawling nets and that permits sea turtles to escape if they are caught accidentally.

TELEMETRY. The use of electronic equipment in monitoring the movements of animals. Sonar, radio telemetry and satellite telemetry are often used to monitor sea turtles, with an electronic device emitting a signal of a particular frequency being attached to the turtle’s carapace.

TEMPERATURE PROFILE. A temperature profile refers to the temperatures found on a beach at different times of the day. Temperature profiles may influence the selection of nest sites, and certainly affects the sex ratios of sea turtle hatchlings.

THREATENED. Taxa likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. Also look at: endangered.

TORTOISE SHELL. The scutes of the hawksbill turtle that are used in the manufacture of a variety of items, including jewelry. Green turtle scutes are also used but they are thin, difficult o work, and usually not as beautiful as genuine tortoise shell. Also look at: bekko.

VERTEBRALS. The scutes of the carapace that overlie the backbone of the shelled turtles. These are also referred to as central or neural scutes.

YEAR CLASS. All of the animal members of a population that hatched during a particular nesting season. The sizes of a particular year class can vary considerably after a few years depending on the quality and quantity of food available.

YEARLING. A turtle that has survived for one year following hatching. Depending on the quality and quantity of food available, as well as on the species involved, yearlings may vary considerably in size.

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Mahatma Gandhi

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Sea Turtles - Amazing Pictures and Animal Facts Everyone Should Know

Sea Turtles is the first in a series of books exploring some of the world's wonderful animals in both pictures and words. Designed for both the young and not quite so young, this book is best suited to boys and girls of about 8 years of age and older, although younger children will also benefit from the book, as long as their reading is guided. This particular book takes a look into the life of 7 of the world's oldest and most incredible creatures. With an ancestry dating back to the early days of the dinosaurs here on earth, the book looks at: The king of the marine turtles - the leatherback. The stunningly beautiful hawksbill sea turtle. The big-headed loggerhead sea turtle. The grazing green sea turtle. The heart-shaped olive ridley sea turtle. The Australian sea turtle - the flatback. The baby of the marine turtles - the Kemp's ridley. After a lifetime spent studying the animal kingdom at first hand as she has traveled the globe, Ann Lawrence brings the world of these marine creatures to life with some of the most amazing pictures you will find anywhere. Pick up this beautiful interesting and informative book today! *** Both children and adults will enjoy reading Sea Turtles ***

  • ISBN: 9781310243660
  • Author: WMC Publishing
  • Published: 2015-11-28 07:20:16
  • Words: 9262
Sea Turtles - Amazing Pictures and Animal Facts Everyone Should Know Sea Turtles - Amazing Pictures and Animal Facts Everyone Should Know