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An adult loggerhead turtle can reach an average length of 3ft-4ft and weigh up to 450 lbs. When hatched, they may be as small as 2 inches in length and weigh less than a pound.
Loggerheads have a wide range and can be found in temperate and tropical regions worldwide. The loggerhead turtle is the most abundant sea turtle species in the United States.
Easily recognized by their large head, loggerhead turtles have strong, powerful jaws for crushing prey. The top portion of the shell (carapace) is reddish brown in contrast to the paler colored shell bottom (plastron). In adult loggerheads the shell is often covered with algae and barnacles, masking its color. Their strong flippers, typically a brown color, are used to pull them through the water.
Loggerheads are most often found in coastal regions but will also travel hundreds of miles out into sea.
Primarily carnivorous, loggerheads feed on shellfish, sponges, sea jellies, and shrimp. They will also occasionally eat seaweed.
Adult loggerhead natural predators include a number of species of sharks and humans. Hatchling predators include crabs, raccoons, dogs, foxes, birds, and reef fish.
Courtship and mating will take place off shore from where females will nest. Coming onto sandy beach areas during the night, females will typically produce 2 to 3 nests per season, beginning in mid-May to mid-August. One female loggerhead can lay 35 to 108 eggs in one clutch. After 46 to 65 days, the eggs will hatch. Studies have shown that temperature during incubation can determine the sex of the offspring. Eggs incubated at 90 degrees F and above are typically female, while temperatures 82 degrees F and below will produce males. Between 83 to 89 degrees F will result in a combination of males and females. Females will become sexually mature between 20-30 years of age and will nest every 2 to 3 years.
Pollution, fishing, boat collisions, poaching, and habitat destruction have all contributed to the decline in the population of loggerhead turtles.
Marine debris such as plastic bags, balloons or fishing line can be accidentally ingested or the turtle can become entangled in the debris. Recently, a green sea turtle found dead in Australia had more than 317 pieces of plastics in its stomach. Unfortunately, it is also the marine pollution that we can’t see that is just as dangerous to the marine world. This includes chemicals from decomposing plastics, discarded medicines, pesticides, flame retardants and much more.
Sea turtles will nest on sandy beaches in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world. These beaches are often shared with a variety of animals, including humans. Disruption of nests by humans, pets, small carnivore (raccoons and foxes) as well as birds can be disastrous for these animals. In some countries the eggs are even harvested for food. Additionally, female sea turtles will come ashore at night to lay their eggs and will follow the moonlight to return to the ocean. The presence of large shoreline hotels with bright lights kept on throughout the night disorients nesting females which may result in the loss of a clutch or even injury to the female.
Sea turtles are one of many species of marine animals that may also be inadvertently caught as by-catch or entangled by commercial fisheries. In the United States, specific regulations have been put in place to reduce this bycatch; most notably, TEDs. Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) are attached to trawl nets and work as an escape hatch for larger accidentally caught animals. A recent study shows that there is an estimated 90% reduction in sea turtle deaths due to US fisheries since 1990 as a result of such regulations.
Marine debris is a global problem and one that is not easy to fix. Individuals can assist in local cleanup initiatives and discard trash appropriately to help with this problem.
Facilities, such as Mystic Aquarium, support sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. The aquarium is currently the home of two loggerhead turtles who are part of a head start program where abandoned and rescued hatchlings are raised in a facility for one to two years to improve their chances of survival.
Along the shoreline of sea turtle nesting regions, hotels are requested to turn off their lights during nesting season as to not confuse females. Additionally, sea turtle rescue sites will monitor beaches daily locating and protecting nests during nesting season. Occasionally, they will relocate nests that are located in high traffic areas but this is a difficult process.
Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
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