Welcome to another episode of Natural World Facts!
This fact file is all about Sea Turtles in the series Reptiles and Amphibians.
- Brief Overview:
Turtles are among the oldest groups of reptilians, having evolved millions of years ago. They can be found all over the world and inhabit almost every type of climate. There are seven different species of sea turtle, all of which vary in size and shape. The largest marine turtle is the leatherback. It can grow up to 7 feet (2 meters) long and weighs up to 2,000 lbs. (900 kilograms). The average lifespans of sea turtles can vary from 30 to 100 years, depending on the species.
The appearance of marine turtles varies between species. The green sea turtle has a wide, smooth carapace which is brown or olive in colour, depending on its habitat. It is named after the greenish colour of its skin.
The leatherback turtle has a rubbery, black shell while all other sea turtles have hard, bony shells. Ridges along its carapace help give it a more streamlined and hydrodynamic structure.
Depending on the species, sea turtles colouring can range from olive-green, yellow, greenish-brown, reddish-brown, or black. All species of marine turtles have four flippers to help them swim, unlike tortoises or land turtles which have thick stubby legs for moving on land.
Sea turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetation, although their diet varies between species. Their diet consists of shrimp, seaweed, crabs, jellyfish, sponges, algae and mollusks.
Sea turtles can be found in all the worlds oceans. The Kemp's Ridley turtle usually can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. The Flatback turtle inhabits the ocean around Australia, while the leatherback swims in every ocean on the planet. Green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles tend to stick to tropical and subtropical coastal waters.
In the mating season, females and males migrate to the same beach where they were born, using the magnetic fields of the Earth as their guide. The migrations can be over 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) long.
Sea turtles lay their eggs in clutches of 70 to 190 eggs. Females lay their clutches in holes they have dug in the beach. Once they have laid the eggs, they cover them in sand and return to the sea. Once the eggs hatch, the babies will dig their way out of their hole. Once free, the juveniles hurry to the safety of the sea to avoid being cooked by the sun or eaten by predators.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species, but the leatherback is listed as vulnerable. Some of the biggest threats to sea turtles include; oil spills, habitat loss (due to coastal development), accidental catching and poaching.
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