Sea turtles, like all turtles and tortoises, are Reptiles and although they spend part of their lifetime in water, they breathe air. Their shells are formed by an upper part (carapace) and a lower section (plastron). The carapace is covered in hard scales (scutes) and the number and arrangement of these helps with the identification of the species.
Sea turtles do not have teeth but have beaks which are modified for their diet; they do not have external ears and have an excellent sense of smell. They possess very good eyesight underwater but they are extremely short sighted when on land. The shape of the body and flippers make them very efficient underwater. They keep very close ties to land, where they come to lay their eggs during the nesting season.
Sea turtles are amongst the most mysterious and fascinating animals: their sex is determined by the temperature at which their eggs incubate; once hatchlings reach the sea, they disappear for several years and nobody knows where they go; they migrate for thousands of kilometres and then return to the beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. Their method of navigation to achieve this is still unknown.
These wonderful creatures have been around for over a 100 million years and today there are only seven species left worldwide:
- Green (Chelonia mydas)
- Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
- Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)
- Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)
- Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)
- Flatback (Natator depressus)
- Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
If you want to know more about sea turtles enrol in the Sea Turtle Awareness Specialty!