Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Of all 7 species of sea turtles, the largest is the loggerhead sea turtle. Their name comes from their strong jaws and thick skulls. While they typically weigh in at around 250 pounds and live for about seventy to eighty years, some larger and older turtles have been found. Loggerheads are considered to be a keystone species. This means that ecosystems rely on them to keep a balance. They help provide smaller animals with nutrients because they will often eat whatever scraps the turtles leave behind, predators also rely on the sea turtle hatchlings for food. Hundreds of species such as crabs, barnacles, and algae use the loggerhead's shell for protection and shelter. This makes them being an endangered species that much worse. So many things rely on them for food or shelter that without them, countless ecosystems would fail.
There are only two beaches where there are more than 10,000 females that nest per year, South Florida, USA, and Oman. In the United States, loggerhead turtles nest mainly along the Atlantic coast of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, as well as along the Florida and Alabama coasts in the Gulf of Mexico. It is estimated that there are 100,000 nests laid per year. Loggerhead nests can also be found throughout the Caribbean, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (Cape Verde Islands and Brazil), in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, throughout the Indian Ocean in small numbers, and in the North and South Pacific Ocean.
Loggerhead turtles are marine reptiles meaning they must come to the surface to breathe air, they can hold their breath anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. They spend their first seven to fifteen years growing out in the open waters and they migrate near shore where they develop for a few more years until they are ready to start their journey back to their birthplace.
Loggerheads are incredible at navigating, female turtles will return back to the beach where they hatched decades before to lay their eggs, almost exactly in the same place. Females can lay two to five clutches and around one hundred and thirty eggs in one season.
Loggerhead sea turtles have the most varied diet of any other sea turtle species. Their diet mainly consists of meat. On rare occasions, they will eat seagrass, sea sponges, coral, or algae but typically they stick with crustaceans, fish, squid, whelks, jellyfish, mollusks, horseshoe crabs, and sea urchins. Trash that gets discarded by humans is often mistaken for fish or crabs by sea turtles, who unfortunately ingest them. Their mouths have a special lining designed to protect them from getting stung by whatever they are eating. All sea turtles have developed spines all the way down their throat to help release water from whatever they are eating while holding the food in their stomach, the spines also protect them from being stung by jellyfish while they are eating them, these spines are called papillae.
Loggerhead sea turtles are a keystone species so it is important that we protect and learn about them to make sure that they don't go extinct. If you want to learn more about loggerhead sea turtles and other marine life, check out more articles on the Beachlex page!