The Loggerhead Turtle

Information About the Loggerhead turtle

The only living member of the genus Caretta, the Loggerhead sea turtle can grow up to an intimidating 364 kg and 1.1 meters long. The species is so named for the turtle's over-large head punctuated by a set of strong jaws suitable for feeding on a wide range of sea life from mollusks (whelks and conch) to crustaceans (crabs and shrimp) to fish and jellyfish. They have also been known to consume small or immature marine animals such as sea birds and mammals.

Loggerhead turtles have a large habitat ranging from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to the Indian Ocean. Atlantic migratory routes span from Newfoundland to Argentina with breeding and reproduction taking place in the warm waters of the southern hemisphere. Some Loggerhead turtles are known to hibernate rather than pursue the challenging migratory patterns. For females this is most likely in the 2-3 year period between egg cycles.

The mating season spans several months - from March to June - and female egg laying continues into September. The nesting female will lay up to 150 eggs in deep nests which she digs in the soft sand of the same beach where she hatched 35 or more years earlier. She uses her flippers to cover the eggs, forming a protective mound that keeps the eggs safe from beach-going predators much, but not all, of the time. The tiny Loggerhead turtle hatchings, which weigh about 20 grams and measure a scant 45 mm in length, emerge after a two-month incubation period. Those that make it from nest to sea and through the surf line to open water will swim for several days to find areas of deep water upwelling, that offer moderate protection from tossing seas in rich debris fields of seaweed and other floating materials.

As with all eco-sensitive species, the Loggerhead turtle populations have been in decline for decades. Annual nesting estimates worldwide reveal fewer than 150,000 nests per year in all traditional Loggerhead nesting areas. Adults easily become ensnared in gill nets, long-lines, traps and pots. Dredging also claims a number of turtles each year.

The large migratory territories of the Loggerhead require global cooperation to ensure that protective efforts will be successful. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna makes trade of any part of this species unlawful, affording it some protection from human predation. Several countries share agreements that expand protection for the feeding and nesting areas and many have imposed bans on shrimp to force changes in the trawling gear to make it less hazardous to Loggerheads and other routinely ensnared deep sea turtle species.

Conservation efforts include the hatch and release of nests that are discovered in threatened or unsuitable areas. The eggs are carefully counted and transported to an incubation facility. The young are raised until they are strong enough to survive on their own and released into the ocean from the same beach that housed their nest. This imprints the hatchling on the spot and increases the likelihood that it will return to continue the cycle when it reaches sexual maturity three and a half decades later

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