Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead sea turtle

Loggerhead sea turtle courtesy of USFWS

Status: Endangered Endangered - small

Known as: Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Loggerhead.

Estimated numbers left in the wild: 200,000; difficult to estimate.


Description

The loggerhead sea turtle is a hefty oceanic turtle with flippers in place of legs and a sturdy reddish-brown shell. The animal’s skin shade is somewhere between yellow and brown, depending on the individual. Loggerheads are typically 90 centimetres long when fully grown, weighing 135 kilograms, but there have been some exceptional individuals whose length has been confirmed as 280 centimetres (close to 3 meters), and whose weight is 454 kilograms. The loggerhead is a hard shelled turtle, unlike other species of sea turtle which have leathery shells.

Loggerhead turtles are mostly meat-eaters, though they eat enough sargassum and other kinds of seaweed to count as partly omnivorous. They eat a few fish but mostly feed on jellyfish, crustaceans such as crabs, and conch shells. These turtles are wanderers and highly migratory animals, and cover vast areas of ocean in their travels. They spend around 85% of their time underwater, diving for periods from a quarter to a half hour. However, they can dive for up to four hours at a time. Loggerheads sleep resting on an underwater surface when possible. They are large and robust enough to be immune to most predator attacks.

Loggerhead breeding takes place on land, and it is at this time they are at their most vulnerable. Females come up on shore to excavate nests on the beach and lay their eggs before retreating to the surf again. The turtles are vulnerable to human predation at this time, and their eggs are also taken by humans and various land carnivores. The Florida coast in the United States is one of the largest loggerhead nesting places. Females are often aggressive to each other when nesting and may engage in combat over nesting sites. Young loggerheads move to the ocean and, if they survive the gauntlet of predators, are believed to swim to large areas of sargassum (a type of floating seaweed that occurs in warm oceanic waters) to hide and feed until they reach full growth.

Loggerhead sea turtle map

Loggerhead sea turtle range map courtesy of MapLab

Location: Loggerhead sea turtles are found in all the oceans of the world with the exception of the Arctic Ocean, which is too cold for them. Loggerheads live in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea. Coastal tropical and subtropical waters are the preferred habitat of the species, but they will follow warm currents well into the temperate zones, too. They also enter bays and river estuaries, as well as swimming in the open ocean.


Conservation

Endangered

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle courtesy of Brian Gratwicke

Threats: The main risks to loggerheads come on land, where they are subject to predation and where their egg clutches are devoured by various animals. In Australia, introduced red foxes wiped out most of the loggerhead clutches, causing up to 95% casualties. In the important Florida breeding grounds, raccoons are a major threat to the eggs. Excessive numbers of raccoons occur in Florida today because of the amount of food provided by urban garbage.

Various human activities also directly impact these intriguing reptiles. Loggerhead sea turtles often become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Humans no longer hunt the turtles themselves as they once did, but the eggs are eaten in some countries where protective measures are poorly enforced, such as Mexico. Ingested plastic from trash in the oceans also endangers loggerheads.

Conservation efforts: Loggerhead sea turtles are legally protected in most countries, which has greatly reduced hunting and egg collection. The problem of predators is being addressed in various ways. Australian loggerhead populations appear to be rebounding now that introduced red foxes have been aggressively culled. Fences have proven successful at keeping raccoons from wiping out eggs on United States beaches, but conservation efforts are necessary and ongoing.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Videos


Organisations

Oceana logo

Oceana

Oceana is the largest international organization focused only on ocean conservation, protecting marine ecosystems and endangered species such as the Loggerhead Sea Turtle.


Sea Turtle Conservancy

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Sea Turtle Conservancy works to protect the 7 different remaining sea turtle species found in the oceans and their habitats through research, education, training and advocacy.


Turtle Species


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