Facts on Loggerhead Turtles.
Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) are found in tropical waters all over the world. Loggerhead Turtles are a part of the marine reptile family (Cheloniidae) and got their name from their exceptionally large head with a heavy, strong jaw. Loggerhead Turtles carapace (back) is reddish-brown in color and heart-shaped with large non-overlapping scales. They have short, thick flippers. Their front flipper has 2 claws, while the back flippers have 2-3 claws. Loggerhead Turtles are born at 4.6cm in length and 20g in weight and they will grow up to 1.1m in length and 170 kg in weight. It’s the second largest hard-shelled turtle in the world. The only difference between the sexes is that the males have a thicker tail and shorter plastron (stomach) then the females.
A lot of reptiles (lizards, frogs and turtles) are herbivores (only eat grass and plants), but Loggerhead Turtles are carnivorous (eats other animals) and mostly feed on jellyfish, shellfish, crabs, clams, mussels and other invertebrates. Their strong jaws can easily crush the shells of shellfish. Like most marine reptiles Loggerhead Turtles needs to get rid of excess salt they gain through their food. They have special salt glands to expel the salt which is located behind the eyes. When they excreta it on land it looks like they are crying. Loggerhead Turtles are found in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea feeding in coastal bays and estuaries.
Female Loggerhead turtles start reproducing when they are 17 years of age, but can wait until they are 33 before they have their first nest. They mate with multiple partners and can store sperm until ovulation. This means that more than one male can be the father in one clutch. They nest every 2-4 years and lay 3-6 clutches in one season, approximately 12-14 days apart. They lay between 100-126 eggs in each nest that will incubate for about 60 days. Loggerhead turtles lives 47-67 years. Natural predators of newly hatched Loggerhead Turtles are crabs, toads, lizards, snakes and birds. When they reach the ocean the main predators are larger fish, moray eels and crabs. When they reach adulthood, attacks are rare since only sharks, seals and Orcas (killer whales) can predate on them. When the female come out to lay their eggs they are attacked by dogs, cats and humans.
Loggerhead Turtles are listed as endangered and are facing a great risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. The greatest threat to them is the loss of nesting habitat due to predation on the nests and human disturbances. Human disturbance includes coastal development and light that disorientate the hatchlings away from the ocean towards houses. “Why would the hatchlings go after light?” When coming out of the nests the hatchlings are following the brightest light that the moonlight creates to get to the ocean. A street light is easily mistaken for the moon by a newly hatched turtle. The second threat to Loggerhead Turtles, are when they accidentally get entangled in longlines and trawlers. Escape hatches have been developed to decrease turtles getting entangled in trawlers, but nothing is protecting them from the longlines. Another threat Loggerhead Turtles are facing is climate change, because the sex of the hatchling depends on the temperature the eggs are incubated in. When the temperature is 28°C the eggs will become male, when its 32°C the eggs will become female. If the temperature is 30°C there will be as many males as female in the clutch. With the world temperature increasing more Loggerhead Turtles will become female. This will affect the male/female ratio and the Loggerhead Turtles risk of extinction.
In some countries Loggerhead Turtles are still hunted for their meat and eggs. In Mexico turtle eggs are seen as an aphrodisiac (increasing their sexual desire), but turtle eggs and meat has the opposite effect since it can cause serious illness due to harmful bacteria and high levels of pollution. Loggerhead turtles are also threatened by plastic. Plastic is easily mistaken for jellyfish and when eating a plastic sheet it gets stuck in their throat or stomach and the turtle will die. The estimated population size of Loggerhead turtles is 40,000-50,000 nesting females.