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Sea Turtles Found in Escambia County

TEXT DEVELOPED BY SARAH STOLER

 

Sea turtles can be identified from other species of Florida turtles first by their large size; many adults are 300 lbs or more and have a shell length of 3-4 ft.  However, like other turtles, they begin life small.  Small sea turtles differ in that their limbs appear as “flippers” and you cannot distinguish the five digits – though they do have them.  Sea turtles do not withdraw into their shells, as many other turtles do.  They are a true marine species and found most often in the Gulf of Mexico but can enter the estuaries to feed on seagrass or invertebrates.

 

Here are the five species known to inhabit our waters:

The Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Photo: Florida Sea Grant

 

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

  • Its common name comes from the
  • “greenish” color of its fat
  • Only sea turtle that is a herbivore, their diet
  • consists of seagrass and algae
  • Found worldwide in tropical to temperate
  • latitudes
  • Considered endangered (International Union for
  • Conservation of Nature)

Most Predominant Threats

  • Coastal development reduces their nesting area
  • Dogs and other animals can destroy their nests
  • Individuals being captured at sea or taken from beaches
  • Accidental capture by fishing operations
  • Presences of lights on or adjacent to nesting beaches can alter
  • nesting behavior

 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)
Photo: Molly O’Connor

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)

  • Its common name comes from the shape of its curved, pointed beak resembling a bird
  • Foraging predators feeding on sponges and other invertebrates growing on coral reefs
  • Found worldwide in tropical to temperate latitudes
  • Considered critically endangered (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Most Predominant Threats

  • Coastal development reduces their nesting area
  • Dogs and other animals can destroy their nests
  • Individuals being captured at sea or taken from beaches
  • Accidental capture by fishing operations
  • Presences of lights on or adjacent to nesting beaches can alter nesting behavior
  • Due to their close ties to coral reefs, threats to that ecosystem and to sponges and other species that live on them also add negative pressure

 

 

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

  • Its common name comes from Richard M. Kemp, the Kemp’s ridley for identification in 1880! a Floridian fisherman and naturalist who first submitted
  • Foraging predators that mainly eat crabs, fish, jellyfish, and small mollusks
  • Found in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Atlantic seaboard and parts of the Mediterranean
  • Considered the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
  • Smallest of all seven marine turtle species

Most Predominant Threats

  • Incidental capture in fishing gear, or bycatch
  • Egg collection
  • Predators like foxes, weasels, raccoons, dogs and even humans eating eggs
  • Newly emerged hatchlings being snatched by predators as they make their way to the water for the first time

*(There are now Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) being used in trawl nets)

 

 

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) Photo: Andrew Coleman

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

  • Its common name comes from its soft, leathery shell that is composed of cartilage-like tissues.
  • Preferred prey are jellyfishes but will eat plant material and other gelatinous animals
  • Found circum-globally, with nesting sites on tropical sandy beaches and foraging ranges extending into temperature and sub-polar latitudes.
  • Considered to be a vulnerable species (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
  • Largest living turtle on the planet (>2000 lbs)

Most Predominant Threats

  • Coastal development reduces their nesting area
  • Dogs and other animals can destroy their nests
  • Individuals being captured at sea or taken from beaches
  • Accidental capture by fishing operations

 

 

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) Photo: UF IFAS

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

  • Its common name comes from its broad, strong head.
  • Generalists predators using their muscular heads and powerful jaws to crush their food
  • Diet consists of: queen conch, caribbean spiny lobsters, and other hard-shelled invertebrates.
  • Found around the globe throughout the subtropicalPacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, and temperate regions of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Considered to be a vulnerable species (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Most Predominant Threats

  • Coastal development reduces their nesting area
  • Dogs and other animals can destroy their nests
  • Individuals being captured at sea or taken from beaches
  • Accidental capture by fishing operations targeting other species

 

References:

nationalgeographic.com

oceana.org

iucnredlist.org

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/marine/2017/05/04/sea-turtles-found-in-escambia-county/