Sea turtles are fascinating creatures with great determination and instincts. Learn more about the solitary and challenging life of a sea turtle to appreciate these reptiles and understand how to help protect them.
While each species of sea turtle looks a little different in color and size, there are things they all have in common.
- Sea turtles have been on earth so long, they lived during the time of the dinosaurs.
- There are seven species of sea turtle: flatback, green, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback, olive ridley and Kemp's ridley.
- An adult sea turtle can be two to six feet long, depending on the species.
- The largest sea turtle ever seen weighed over 2,000 pounds.
- The smallest adults weigh around 60 pounds.
- Unlike land turtles, sea turtles can't tuck their head or flippers into their shell.
- Sea turtles have claws.
Each kind of sea turtle has a specific geographic area where they nest, breed and live.
- Sea turtles like warmer, tropical waters.
- Adult sea turtles spend most of their lives in shallow waters, only going on beaches to lay eggs.
- When sea turtles look for food or a mate they can travel thousands of miles through the sea.
- Most sea turtles live their whole life alone, only interacting with others when it's time to mate.
- Baby sea turtles sleep floating on the surface of the water with their fins behind their back.
- Adult sea turtles can sleep on the bottom of the ocean by wedging themselves under rock ledges.
- To create a nest for eggs, females dig a pit in the sand using their flippers and body.
Each species of sea turtle lives in a particular area and eats a diet based on their unique physical makeup.
- Baby sea turtles are predators who eat fish eggs, mollusks and jellyfish.
- The teeth of a green sea turtle look like the edges of a saw to help them rip seagrasses.
- Green sea turtles are the only species where adults are herbivores.
- Kemp's ridley and loggerhead sea turtles are carnivores who eat mostly crabs.
- The hawksbill sea turtle's sharp beak allows it to eat mostly sea sponges because it can reach into coral reefs.
- Jellyfish are the main source of food for flatback, leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles.
The sea turtle life cycle explains why there are so few sea turtles. Watch the perilous journey of baby sea turtles from their nest to the ocean in this education video.
- Each female lays 50 to 200 eggs in one nest.
- After laying eggs a female sea turtle feeds for up to a year to get her energy back.
- Baby sea turtles dig their way out of the nest and rush to the water at night.
- Females lay their eggs on the same beach where they were born.
- Sea turtles can lay one group of eggs every 10 days up to seven times during nesting season.
- Feeding, breeding and nesting are not done in the same locations. Sea turtles travel hundreds or thousands of miles between each location.
Six species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered because of threats like pollution, habitat loss and poaching, most of which are caused by humans.
- Hawksbills and Kemp's Ridleys are considered critically endangered, which is the highest threat level.
- Sea turtles help the environment by keeping seagrasses under control and contributing nutrients to the sand when eggshells are left behind in nests.
- Only about one percent of baby sea turtles survive to the age where they can breed.
- Sea turtle eggs are used in traditional folk medicine practices in Asia and South America.
- While human interaction can be harmful, people volunteering with professional organizations to help baby sea turtles hatch and reach the ocean is beneficial for these reptiles.
If you want to learn more about sea turtles and how to help them escape extinction look for movies, books, games and volunteer opportunities near you or on your next vacation.
Animated films with interwoven facts are great at keeping younger kids' attention and providing an educational experience to remember. Older kids will appreciate the realistic images and stories presented in documentary films.
- Turtle: The Incredible Journey is a documentary film about the journey from birth to breeding for one loggerhead sea turtle.
- The fictional film Finding Nemo features tons of sea creatures including scenes riding the Gulf Stream with a sea turtle named Crush and his son, Squirt. Although the story is made up, the film uses factual information about sea creatures.
- A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures follows the animated journey of a sea turtle from birth including real information about the life cycle of a sea turtle.
The best way to find out everything you can about a particular animal is to read as many kinds of books as possible. Each book offers a unique angle on sea turtle life.
- I'll Follow the Moon, by Stephanie Lisa Tara, is a children's picture book based on the real journey of baby sea turtles. This fictional story follows a baby sea turtle as it uses instincts to find its mom.
- Learn about the life cycle of loggerhead sea turtles in One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies. This story uses lyrical language to tell a nonfiction story.
- National Geographic sells a full-color nonfiction book called Sea Turtles by Laura Marsh. Get an up-close look at the life, habitat and physical attributes of these interesting reptiles.
Games and Activities
Show off your love of sea turtles with fun activities and crafts you can hang around the house. Better yet, become a citizen scientist and get involved with keeping these creatures protected!
- Find printable coloring pages, craft ideas, worksheets and more at ThoughtCo.
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy offers a variety of online games and puzzles like the Turtle Adventure Game where kids use the space bar and arrow keys to move a baby turtle through hazards.
- Download the TURT app if you're near where sea turtles live and become a citizen scientist who observes sea turtles and shares information with real researchers.
Saving Sea Turtles
Your knowledge of sea turtles and their importance in the world can help save a species. When you understand what is important to the livelihood of a sea turtle you can find ways to get involved or help others appreciate these animals.