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What Is a Loggerhead Sea Turtle?

By B. Koch
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The loggerhead sea turtle, or Caretta caretta, is an endangered species that lives in waters all around the world. These turtles spend nearly their entire lives in the water, the adults coming to shore only to lay their eggs. They are especially notable because of their migratory habits, as they are known to travel extremely long distances through the ocean.

With the male loggerhead sea turtle reaching about 36 inches (92 centimeters) in length, these turtles are the largest hard shelled turtles in existence. They usually weigh about 250 pounds (113 kilograms), yet even larger turtles have been observed. Their shells are usually a red or brown color, with a yellow bottom shell, and are distinctive because they are slightly heart-shaped. Their lifespan is not definitely known, but it is estimated that they live close to 50 years.

These turtles may be found in oceans all around the world, especially in temperate and tropical waters, as they do not like especially cold waters. Loggerhead turtles are known for their tendency to travel very long distances and can even swim across entire oceans. Migratory by nature, loggerheads do not have an especially preferred environment in which to live. They may be found in open waters, as well as closer to the coast.

The diet of the loggerhead sea turtle includes crustaceans, crabs, fish, and jellyfish. Loggerheads have strong jaws that allow then to break through shells and consume a variety of other sea life that is protected by hard exteriors. They can also eat clams, conchs, mollusks, and whelks.

Its egg laying practices are a distinctive trait of the loggerhead sea turtle. Females will lay eggs every few years, and will swim to shore to do so, crawling along the sand until they are a safe distance from the surf. Here, they will dig a hole for a nest and lay about 100 eggs. It is not unusual for these turtles to return to the same beach where they were hatched in order to lay their own eggs, even if this requires traveling thousands of miles. This time of egg laying as well as the trip from nest to shore that the hatchlings will take, are the only time that these turtles will spend time on land.

When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles immediately make their way to the ocean surf where ocean currents transport them, as they are too small to swim very far on their own. Ideally, these currents will deposit them in an area protected by seaweed where they can be sheltered and secluded from predators and where there is sufficient food for them to grow and continue to swim on their own.

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