About Sea Turtles
Sea turtles are one of the earth’s oldest animals living in the ocean. They have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. That’s over 100 million years! Sea turtles are different from land turtles in two primary ways. First, they spend most of their time in the water and not on land. Second, they cannot tuck their legs and head into their shells like other turtles. Let’s learn more about these awesome animals.
What Do Sea Turtles Look Like?
Just like normal turtles, sea turtles have a hard shell called a “carapace.” Their shells are different from land turtles because they are made for swimming. There are many different kinds, or species, of sea turtles, and they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are yellow, black, green, or a combination of all three. One kind, the olive ridley, usually weighs less than 100 pounds. The leatherback turtle can weigh from 650 pounds to over 2,000 pounds. That's about as heavy as a small car!
Sea Turtles Love to Eat!
Sea turtles get hungry too! When they do, they like to eat things that are already in the ocean. They eat jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, sea sponges, mollusks, and sea snails. Sea turtles are immune to the very poisonous box jellyfish, so they are one of the few creatures who can eat a box jellyfish. They also eat ocean plants like seaweed and algae and even sea grass that grows along the ocean floor. They graze on the sea grass like a cow grazes, and they keep the environment healthy for other, smaller fish to live in.
Have you ever seen a sea turtle with ears? If you haven’t, that’s because you cannot see their ears. Their eardrums are hidden underneath their skin. Sea turtles do not have teeth, but they do have a jaw that has a beak, like a bird. Each kind of turtle may have a different beak, depending on what they are used to eating. Sea turtles have a good sense of smell, and they can see pretty well underwater. When they get out of the water, sea turtles cannot see as well from far away, which makes them nearsighted.
Itty-Bitty Sea Turtles
The mother sea turtle comes on shore to lay her eggs in the sand. Sometimes, she will even return to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs, even if it means traveling very far. First, she will dig a large hole in the sand and fill it with 50-200 eggs. The eggs take about two months to hatch, and they almost always hatch at night to avoid predators like seagulls. When the eggs hatch, the itty-bitty sea turtles know how to find their way straight to the water’s edge. All of this takes place without their mother to show them because they have evolved with instincts that tell them what to do. Can you imagine being just born and finding your way to the water with all of your brothers and sisters?
Helping Sea Turtles
There are still so many things we do not know about these fascinating animals. We are trying to learn more about sea turtles so we can help them survive because they are very endangered. As people, we need to remember that we share the beaches and oceans with these animals. Just like us, turtles need protection and a good home to live in. After all, wouldn’t it be cooler to see a sea turtle in the ocean instead of an aquarium?