Sea Turtles Are Just Amazing

Kids at Shedd AquariumCredit: Eric Chan from Hollywood, United States

Sea Turtle Facts

Sea turtles are large sea animals that belong to the family of reptiles. They breathe air and are found in the tropical seas all over the world. They come in many sizes, shapes,colors and weight from small Ridley's that weight 80 pounds to massive leather-backs weighing 1000 pounds.

They have hard shells for protection and the pattern of hard scales on their large backs helps in determining different species. The unique shell of has an upper part called the ''carapace"and lower section called the "plastron".

Sea turtle may not have teeth but do have modified beaks to eat their food that may vary from sea-grass to jelly fish to clams and crabs.

Fine Sense of Navigation

Turtles have lived in the seas for nearly 150 million years and it is believed that they live longer than us humans, probably over hundred years.Turtles are solitary by nature and rarely interact with each other except in the mating season. Sea turtles are great travelers and travel thousands of miles in the vast oceans all their lives.

The unique feature of these exquisite animals is that only females come to the shore too lay eggs in the sand. Male turtles never come ashore and stay in the ocean that they entered as hatchlings. Mother turtle comes back to the beach to lay eggs, the same beach where she was born herself. How she finds her way back to the same beach is one of greatest mysteries of nature. It is now believed that turtles have a fine sense of navigation based on detecting magnetic fields that helps them locate the parent beach. Female turtle crawls to the beach in the stealth of night and digs a nest in the dry sand with her flippers to lay typically 80-100 eggs. Eggs usually hatch after 60 days of incubation in a carefully designed nest that ensures proper temperature.

Tragically, only one in 1000 hatchlings reaches the adulthood. A vast majority of hatchlings fell to prey to predators like birds, raccoons, dogs and in some parts of the world even to humans. In some coastal areas people not only take away the eggs but also kill the mother turtle for her meat, skin and her shell.

Endangered Species

Population of Hawksbill sea-turtles that have a beautiful golden shell has depleted by nearly 90% in the last five decades. Thousands of young turtles get accidentally ensnared in the fishing nets and the annual loss is estimated to staggering 1,50,000. To overcome this accidental killing US government has mandated the use of turtle exclusion devices in all shrimp trawlers.

Plastic waste, oil spills, artificial lighting at the beaches and rapid urbanization of their nesting sites are some of the other reasons for dwindling numbers of these innocuous beautiful giants.

In the US almost all turtle species are now endangered or threatened. We must all attempt to save these harmless inhabitants of the ocean for they not only are they distinctly different but also tireless cleaners of the sea-grass and bring to the barren beach sands much-needed life.