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Loggerhead Turtle

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle / USFWS

Loggerhead Sea Turtle at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida.

Ryan Hagerty, US Fish and Wildlife Service
The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) was called a "bruiser of a turtle" by James R. Spotila in Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior and Conservation. This turtle has a large head, crushing jaws and an allegedly grouchy disposition - with a reputation for females biting anyone who disturbs them while nesting.

Description:

The loggerhead turtle has a very large head. Their carapace is reddish-brown and is about 3.5 feet long. It also may be covered with living things such as algae, barnacles and skeleton shrimp. Logggerheads weigh up to 400 pounds.

Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Genus: Caretta
  • Species: caretta

Habitat and Distribution:

Loggerhead turtles live from temperate to tropical waters, with a range extending throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Loggerhead turtles have the largest nesting range of any sea turtle. The largest nesting grounds are in southern Florida, Oman, Western Australia and Greece.

Feeding:

Loggerheads are carnivores - they feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and jellyfish.

Reproduction:

Loggerheads lay about 4 clutches of about 112 eggs every 12-17 days. This happens every 2-4 years. The turtles nest at night on sandy beaches. This has created an issue in Florida, which has prime nesting beaches, but also high populations. Consequently, many communities have lighting ordinances to keep beaches dark during nesting season. Nests also may be threatened by predators such as raccoons, fox, jackals, and badgers.

The hatchlings emerge at night and weigh less than an ounce. Temperature determines the sex of the turtles. Hatchlings from Florida tend to be females and those from Georgia and the Carolinas tend to be males, although later in the season, this ratio changes and hatchlings in GA and Carolinas tend to be female (Source: Sea Turtles by J.R. Spotila).

A few days after they enter the ocean, the hatchings start their way to mats of floating Sargassum, where they eat many different kinds of small plants and animals. They live near the ocean surface and follow the prevailing current for about 6-12 years. Once they reach a shell length of 18-20 inches, they head toward inshore waters, where they feed closer to the bottom. They don't return to nesting beaches until they are about 20 inches long.

Conservation:

Loggerhead turtles are listed under the Endangered Species Act. They are threatened by pollution, coastal development, and bycatch in fishing gear.

Sources:

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Marine Life
  4. Sea Turtles
  5. Loggerhead Sea Turtle Profile - Facts About the Loggerhead Turtle

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