Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Turtles: Sea Turtles
The large and graceful sea turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean. The one exception occurs when the females come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. Since the turtles use the same beaches year after year, their nesting habits can be observed by anyone with patience. After spending a year or more wandering at sea, the hatchlings return to shallow water to feed on marine grasses. When they are mature and ready to nest, each female probably returns to the same beach where it was hatched! Sea turtles are air breathers, but they can stay submerged for surprisingly long periods. The record seems to be that of a Leatherback Turtle that was timed while remaining underwater forty one minutes. Sea turtles can dive to depths of more than 3,000 feet, and they are famous for swimming enormous distances at sea. Some tagged individual sea turtles have been found 4,000 miles from their nesting beaches.

Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle- The Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle nests along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This is the most common marine turtle that visits the Florida coasts. The Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle can be easily recognized by their reddish brown upper shell that is elongated and heart-shaped, and by the large head and broad jaws. These loggerhead sea turtles may reach a length of 4 feet and weigh 170-350 pounds.  There are historical accounts of giant Loggerheads weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Like all sea turtles, the Loggerheads are diminishing in numbers year after year. They are currently listed as threatened in the state of Florida.

Atlantic Green Turtle -This famous sea turtle is more common in the Caribbean, although it is often seen swimming off the coasts of South Florida. One of the principle Atlantic green Turtle's nesting sites is the Northeast Caribbean coast off of Costa Rica. The Atlantic Green Turtle has a broad, oval, dark brown or olive shell. This turtles carapace, or upper shell has no ridge down the center and curves smoothly from side to side. It grows to a maximum length of 5 feet and weighs 250-280 pounds. The diet of the Atlantic Green Turtle consists mainly of turtle grass though it does eat marine invertebrates. Approximately 100 to 1,000 green turtles nest on Florida’s beaches each year from June through late September. Green turtles are found during the day in shallow flats and seagrass meadows and return every evening to their usual sleeping quarters—scattered rock ledges, oyster bars, and coral reefs.


Atlantic Hawksbill Turtle- The Atlantic hawksbill turtle rarely nests in Florida, preferring the Caribbean beaches. This sea turtle is often seen by divers in the Florida Keys. The hawksbill turtle's snout looks like a hawk's beak, and the dark scales on its head have yellow margins. It has a heart-shaped greenish brown or tan shell with mottling on its head and flippers. The Hawksbill may reach a length of 3 feet and weigh 165 pounds. Its diet consists mainly of marine invertebrates. The Atlantic hawksbill  turtle is the source of tortoise shell used in making jewelry and other products. like all sea turtles, the hawksbill swims mostly with its front flippers, in contrast to freshwater turtles that use both front and rear flippers.

Leatherback Turtle- The Leatherback turtle swims great distances at sea. This turtles eggs are prized in some places as food, but its flesh is not eaten. Between 40 and 125 nests are reported each spring on the east coast of Florida. Its major nesting area in the Atlantic are Surinam, French Guyana, Panama, and Costa Rica. St Croix in the West Indies is also a well studied nesting site. The leatherback eats jellyfish in very large quantities, but jellyfish are low in calories and much of the nourishment may come from the macro plankton trapped in the jelly fishes tentacles. Because of its smooth, soft skin, the leatherback is not bothered by the barnacle, algae, and suckerfish which usually attach themselves to other sea turtles. Leatherbacks are the largest of all living turtles with adults exceeding six feet in length. Nesting females are usually under 1,000 pounds, but male Leatherbacks that stay at sea can reach 3,000 pounds. This sea turtles upper shell is long and triangular and is generally black with light blue flecks. The Leatherback has long and powerful flippers.

Kemp's Ridley Sea TurtleAtlantic Ridley Turtle- The Kemp’s Ridley is the rarest sea turtle in the world and is the most endangered. It has only one major nesting beach, an area called Rancho Nuevo on the Gulf coast of Mexico. Fewer than 1,000 nesting females remain in the world. Kemp’s Ridleys are small, weighing only 85 to 100 pounds and measuring 2 to 2.5 feet in carapace length, but they are tough and tenacious. Their principal diet is crabs and other crustaceans.

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