Sea turtles —like all turtles and tortoises— are reptiles. Sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans for around 150 million years.
There are seven living species of sea turtles:
- Flatback Sea Turtle
(Natator depressus) — Endangered status unknown
- Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) — Endangered
- Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) — Critically Endangered
- Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) — Critically Endangered
- Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) — Critically Endangered
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) — Endangered
- Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) — Vulnerable
Sea turtles are found in all warm and temperate waters throughout the world and migrate hundreds of miles between nesting and feeding grounds. Most sea turtles undergo long migrations, some as far as 1400 miles, between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest.
Within the class Reptilia, sea turtles belong to the orderTestudines. The leatherback alone is in the family Dermochelyidae; the other six species are in the family Chelniidae. The flatback sea turtle is endemic to Australia (endemic means it is found only there, nowhere else); the other six species have wide ranges; some span all the oceans of the world. Sea turtles constitute a single evolutionary radiation that became distinct from all other turtles at least 110 million years ago.
The Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle
A. Adult female turtle lays 80-100 eggs on the beach.
B. She swims away, hopefully to return again next year to lay another clutch of eggs.
C. Around 45 days later, the baby turtles hatch from their eggs. It takes them 2-3 days to dig up out of the sand; they then make their way to the water, and swim away.
D. They will live and grow for 7-8 years.
E. before they reach maturity and are ready to reproduce.
F. They mate while swimming in the water.
G. The male swims away.
H. And the female will make her way back to the beach where she was born, to lay her clutch of eggs.
I. And the process repeats itself.