Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Caretta caretta

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The Loggerhead is a sea turtle found throughout the temperate areas of the world’s oceans. Adult turtles will average 35 inches (90 cm) in length with the occasional turtle reaching up to 110 inches (280 cm). The weight of adult turtles can range between 300 pounds (136 kg) and 1,000 pounds (450 kg). Their skin is yellowish brown and the shell will be reddish brown. The carapace is smooth and heart-shaped. It is difficult to distinguish between genders when the turtle is young, but adult males will have thicker tails, shorter plastrons and longer claws than females.

These turtles are primarily carnivores which feed on jellies, invertebrates and some fish. Their large heads and powerful jaws enable them to easily grasp and crush shellfish like crabs and clams. They may supplement their diets with seaweed or sargassum.

Loggerheads are most vulnerable to predators directly after hatching as they scramble across wide sandy beaches to reach the ocean. Once in the water, they may be hunted by sea birds and some reef fish. As they get older and larger, the threat posed by predators greatly decreases although sharks will remain a threat throughout their lives.

Range and Habitat

The loggerhead has the broadest range of any sea turtle on Earth, occupying the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. They prefer temperate waters but can migrate vast distances during the course of their lives. In 1996, one female turtle was found to have swum 9,000 miles during a single year. For most of their lives, these reptiles live in the open ocean along the continental shelf and come ashore only to nest and lay their eggs.

Conservation Status

Endangered. Loggerheads are particularly susceptible to marine pollution, often drowning when entangled in discarded fishing nets or floating plastic waste. Additionally, many beaches where the turtles have historically nested have been disturbed by human development which lowers the specie’s’ overall birthrate.

Due to their extremely large range, protecting the turtles has been difficult as it requires the cooperation and coordination of multiple countries. Although the Loggerhead is the most abundant sea turtle in American waters, consistent population declines due to pollution and accidental bycatch have kept it on the federal government’s Threatened Species List for over four decades.