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Celebrating Sea Turtles - Sea Turtle Week 2015

June 14, 2015

Join us as we celebrate World Sea Turtle Day, June 16, 2015, with a week-long look at sea turtle science and conservation known as NOAA's Sea Turtle Week. Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers. These turtles inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world. Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to beaches on land to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between feeding grounds and nesting beaches.

Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters. All sea turtles 
occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA)
10 populations are endangered and 6 populations are threatened. 

Working with our partners, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies NOAA Fisheries works to:

Take a look at the 6 species of sea turtles found in the United States and learn more about them below.

Green

  • Adult green turtles are the only marine turtles to exclusively eat plants.
  • The green turtle is globally distributed and generally found in tropical and subtropical waters along continental coasts and islands between 30° North and 30° South. Nesting occurs in over 80 countries throughout the year (though not throughout the year at each specific location).
  • Green turtles are thought to inhabit coastal areas of more than 140 countries.
Hawksbill

  • Hawksbill turtles use different habitats at different stages of their life cycle, but are most commonly associated with healthy coral reefs.
  • Hawksbills are capable of nesting faster than any other species of sea turtles and can complete the entire process in less than 45 minutes.
  • Hawksbill turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they have two pairs of prefrontal scales on the top of the head and each of the flippers usually has two claws.

Kemps Ridley

  • Adult Kemp's ridleys are considered the smallest marine turtle in the world.
  • Kemp's ridleys are the only sea turtle species that nests predominantly during daylight hours.
  • Their diet consists mainly of swimming crabs, but may also include fish, jellyfish, and an array of mollusks.

 

Leatherback

  • Pacific leatherback sea turtles are one of eight NOAA Fisheries' Species in the Spotlight.
  • The situation in the Pacific Ocean is dire for leatherbacks: in recent decades, Western Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percent and Eastern Pacific leatherbacks have declined by more than 97 percent. 
  • The United States has taken significant steps to protect leatherbacks in its waters.

Loggerhead

  • During the 3 months or so that a female loggerhead breeds, she will travel hundreds of miles to nest, lay 35 lbs (16 kg) of eggs--or more!--and swim back to her home foraging area, all without eating anything significant.
  • Although they are good swimmers, loggerheads have callus-like traction scales beneath their flippers that allow them to "walk" on the ocean floor.
  • Loggerheads were named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. 

Olive Ridley

  • The olive ridley is mainly a "pelagic" sea turtle, but has been known to inhabit coastal areas, including bays and estuaries. 
  • The olive ridley has one of the most extraordinary nesting habits in the natural world.
  • Large groups of turtles gather off shore of nesting beaches. Then, all at once, vast numbers of turtles come ashore and nest in what is known as an 
    "arribada". During these arribadas, hundreds to thousands of females come ashore to lay their eggs. At many nesting beaches, the nesting density is so high that previously laid egg clutches are dug up by other females excavating the nest to lay their own eggs.


MORE SEA TURTLE SCIENCE AND CONSERVATION

Underwater Robots Search for Sea Turtles
Turtle Excluder Device (TED) Testing
For Rescued Sea Turtle Eggs, A Chance at Survival—Podcast
The Keratin Connection—Podcast
Movements of Leatherback Turtles in the Pacific
Tracing Sea Turtles Using their Genetic Fingerprints
First Satellite Tracks of Young Sea Turtles in the South Atlantic
Sea Turtle Facts