All about Sea Turtles


Have you ever sighted a sea turtle while snorkeling or diving? Sea turtles have lived for more than 100 million years around the globe to support and balance the marine ecosystem. In fact, we have seven various species of sea turtles such as the green, loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, hawksbill, flatback sea turtles which all can be found in seagrass beds, coral reef habitat, and sandy beaches. We celebrate the ‘World Sea Turtle Day’ every 16th of June to appreciate their existence in our mother nature sea. Sea turtles can be categorized as cheloniid (hard-shelled) and dermochelyid (leathery-shelled) and there is only one type of leathery-shelled which is leatherback sea turtle. These omnivore sea turtles can grow to 7 feet long and 1500 pounds. According to WWF, sea turtles considered as endangered animals due to natural threats, human activities, climate change, and plastic pollution. These ancient animals are often slaughtered for their eggs, meat, shells as well as skins, and most of the time died due to fishing boat accident and by catch. Among all those seven species of sea turtles, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles are considered endangered, whereas 90% population of the largest sea turtles, the leatherback turtles are decreasing over for the last 30 years.  

Have you ever wondered why do we have a lot of organizations and foundations all across the world that care and protecting the sea turtles? Why are they so important that we have a movement to ban plastic straws? It is because sea turtles play a vital role for the ocean and beaches. Green sea turtles feed on sea grasses and these sea grasses needs to be constantly short for them to be cultivated across the beds of the ocean. Sea grass beds ecosystem provides home for newborn fishes as they are mainly used for breeding. It will be a catastrophe if the food chain is disrupted which causes less fish in the ocean. Next, sea turtles supply generous nutrient to the beach and dune vegetation as these air-breathing animals lay their eggs in the sand dunes, either they are hatched or unhatched. The symbiotic relationship of the sea turtles with the yellow tang (sea water fish) results in the yellow tang feeds on the algae on the sea turtle’s shell.  

A sea turtle can live for a very long time and hypotonic in the ocean. They rely on a specialized gland that are functioned to remove all of the excess salts in their body as reptilian kidneys cannot function well with ion concentration that is higher than the ocean. Besides, they also have lachrymal gland that mainly produce tears which contains high concentration of salt greater than the sea water. Meanwhile, leatherbacks sea turtle can produce double the concentration of salt compared to other turtles, this is due to the feeding habit as they prey on jellyfish and plankton. In addition, salt water is essential to the hatchlings as they require sea water as soon as possible when entering the world. Sea water is important for the turtles to produce ion and hydration that will keep their body balanced. Sea turtles use their lungs to breath and need to resurface to inhale the air. Foraging sea turtles can spend approximately 40 minutes in the while maximum seven hours for a sleeping sea turtles. Thus, if it happens to be entangled in a net, the possibility of them died from drowning is tremendously high. When resurface, a sea turtle will take one deep breathe to fill their lungs that are rapid oxygen exchange for deep dives into the sea. 

The life cycle for each sea turtles are varied for each different species, and most of the turtles migrate along with the ocean currents until their shell grows big enough for them to be in the coastal waters. They also prey on several types of food such as seagrass for green turtle, coral sponge for hawksbill, and jelly fish for leatherback turtles. They spent their life at the feeding grown, which commonly becomes a tourist spot for most island specifically at the seagrass area and coral reef ecosystem. They reached their sexual maturity at 10-50 years of age depending on the species which predominantly become a drawback for them to breed. Once both female and male have reached their sexual maturity, they will leave their foraging ground for mating and the eggs will be fertilized by male and laid by female. Female sea turtles will be emerged from the sea to lay their eggs at night with minimal amount of light. During the laying eggs sessions, female sea turtles are sensitive to light, and they often make several body pits especially if the area are not comfortable or causes disturbance to her nesting. They make body pits by using their front flipper, meanwhile their back flippers are used for egg chambering. Green sea turtles can lay approximately 120 eggs for eight time maximum with interval 7 to 10 days. Meanwhile, hawksbill sea turtles can lay up to 160 eggs on average. Once they laid their eggs, they will be making another body pit to confuse the animals and poachers who went for their eggs. The mother will return to the sea and usually the male sea turtles are readily waiting for the female to mate again. Most of female sea turtles will nest every four years and preferably at the same nesting area. Statistically, 1 out of 1,000-10,000 of sea turtle survives reaching their adulthood phase, due to human activities and natural occurrence as they have been threatened even in the couch. The eggs are commonly food for monitor lizards and obviously human, while hatchlings for baby shark, crabs, lizards, birds and many more. Generally, hatchlings have yolk sac that kindly supply them for two weeks in the ocean or they can also eat shrimps and larvae. As hatchlings are sensitive to light, they are often found at developed area, resorts and restaurants near the beach which led them to dehydration and predation. Thus, ways to help and protect sea turtles should be encouraged to the local community such as reuse of plastic containers and bring grocery bags when shopping at a market. You can also help in the turtle foundations and conservations by becoming a volunteer or donating for a better future.  

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