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The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is a sea turtle and the only member of the genus Caretta. The genus name "Caretta" is a latinization of the French "caret", meaning turtle, tortoise, or sea turtle. A loggerhead sea turtle reportedly grows up to 800 lbs (364 kg) and long./> Their shell color is a reddish brown color, and the color of their skin is brown yellow. They are named for their disproportionately large head. They are also the state reptile of South Carolina./>

Trophic ecology

The species feeds on molluscs, crustaceans, fish, jellyfish, crabs, shrimp and Portuguese Man o' War and other small to medium-sized marine animals, which they crush with their large and powerful jaws. As with other sea turtles, females return to lay their eggs on or near the same beach where they hatched. Unlike other sea turtles, courtship and mating usually do not take place near the nesting beach but rather along the migration routes between feeding and breeding grounds.

Scientists in Hawaii use satellite transponders to track loggerhead sea turtles in the Northern Pacific Ocean..

Life history

Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle.
In the Mediterraneanmarker, Loggerheads mate from late March to early June. The female nesting season is at its peak in June and July, but this depends on the nesting beach. The clutch may vary from 70 to 150 eggs. Each egg is roughly the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. The average interval between nesting seasons is two to three years.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle laying eggs.

Loggerhead turtles are the most common sea turtle to nest in the United Statesmarker. Loggerheads nest from Texasmarker to North Carolina, requiring soft sandy beaches, where there is little light pollution; with the largest concentration of nests in south Floridamarker. Statistics collected in Florida since 1998 however indicate the lowest nesting levels Florida has seen in 17 years, where nesting rates have declined from 85,988 nests in 1998 to approximately 45,084 in 2007.

After approximately 60 days, the hatchlings emerge usually at night when protection from predation is greater. Because they usually follow the brightest light to the ocean's edge, artificial lights from human activity can lead them astray. Once in the ocean they use ocean currents to travel to the Sargasso Seamarker using the Sargassum as protection until they mature.

An alternative to migration for many loggerheads is hibernation to varying degrees as the water cools. By February they are submerged for up to seven hours at a time, emerging for only seven minutes to recover. Although outdone by freshwater turtle, these are the longest recorded dives for any air-breathing marine vertebrate.

Most loggerheads that reach adulthood live for longer than 30 years, and can often live past 50 years. They are immune to the toxins of a Portuguese Man o' War as the turtles have often been seen feeding on them.

Etymology and taxonomic history

Two subspecies are recognized: Caretta caretta gigas, is found in the Indianmarker and Pacific Oceansmarker, and C. caretta caretta, the Atlanticmarker loggerhead, also found in south Italy and the Greek islands of Zakynthosmarker, Kefaloniamarker, Crete, and the Peloponese and in Dalyanmarker in southwestern Turkeymarker. (see article; June Haimoff).


A loggerhead mainly feeds on bottom dwelling invertebrates. They eat horseshoe crabs, clams, mussels, and other invertebrates. Their powerful jaw muscles help them to easily crush the shellfish. During migration through the open sea, loggerheads eat jellyfishes, floating mollusks, floating egg clusters, squids and flying fishes.

Importance to humans

Loggerhead Sea Turtles were once intensively hunted for their meat and egg, along with their fat which was used in cosmetics and medication. The Loggerhead Sea Turtles were also killed for their shells, which are used to make items such as combs. As a result, both subspecies are now internationally protected.


Loggerhead turtles are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In the United Statesmarker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and National Marine Fisheries Service classify them as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Today the main threat to the adult loggerheads lies in shrimp trawls and crab fishing nets, to which many loggerheads annually fall victim. Furthermore, adults are often injured by speedboat propellers and by swallowing fishing hooks or getting caught in nets. Internationally, animal protection organizations take pains to monitor and protect the turtles' nesting grounds in Turkeymarker, Greecemarker, Bonairemarker, and Costa Ricamarker. The turtles can also be found around the Italian islands of Lampedusamarker and Linosamarker, off the coast of Sicily, and in Calabria, where it is particularly endangered. Furthermore, the turtles are known to nest on the beaches of Cyprusmarker, especially Akamas and Alagadi Beach.

In many places during the nesting season, workers search the coastline to find evidence of nests. Once found, a nest will be uncovered and the eggs carefully counted, if the nest is dangerously located the eggs will be moved to a better spot. Plastic fencing will be placed at or near the surface to protect the eggs from large predators such as raccoons or even dogs. The barrier used is large enough to allow the hatchlings to emerge without difficulty. The nests are checked daily for disturbances; several days after there is indication that the eggs have hatched the nest will be uncovered and the tally of hatched eggs, undeveloped eggs, and dead hatchlings will be recorded. If any hatchlings are found, they are either taken to be raised and released, or taken to research facilities. Ones that appear strong and healthy may instead be released to the ocean. Typically, those that lacked the strength to hatch and climb to the surface by that point would have died otherwise.

Hatchlings require the travel from their nest to the ocean in order to build up strength for the journey ahead, so interfering by helping it to the ocean actually lowers their chances of survival. The Fripp Island, SC Turtle Patrol each year sets pieces of drift wood from the nests toward the sea as guides so the hatchlings get to start out in the right direction. Loggerheads are listed as Endangered under both Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Queenslandmarker's Nature Conservation Act 1992.


The loggerhead sea turtle lives in areas such as bays, lagoons, salt marshes, creeks, ship channels, and the mouths of large rivers. Coral reefs, rocky places, and ship wrecks are places where you might find a feeding ground for loggerheads. Loggerheads nest on ocean beaches and on estuarine shorelines with suitable sand. They like to feed in coastal bays and estuaries, as well as in the shallow water along the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

See also


  2. [1]
  3. BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Turtles return home after UK stay
  4. Hochscheid, S., F. Bentivegna & G.C. Hays. (2005) "First records of dive durations for a hibernating sea turtle." Biol. Lett. 1(1): 82-6.


External links

  • Sri Lanka Reptile Database: [

file:Loggerhead sea turtle.JPG|on display at North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Islandimage:Caretta_carettaZZ.jpg|Caretta caretta skull. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.Image:Caretta caretta 060417w2.jpgImage:BabyLoggerheadTurtle1.jpgImage:Loggerhead Turtle.jpgFile:Caretta caretta01.jpg|Close up of the head

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