Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - May 1, 2008)
Save the turtles 50 percent decrease in nest
The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is the most common sea turtle found in
Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports :
|Photo courtesy of the
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
|A U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service biologist tags an endangered loggerhead turtle.
Nest counts have decreased nearly 50 percent from 1998 to 2007. An updated
analysis of Floridas long-term loggerhead sea turtle nesting data, carried
out as part of the FWC Index Nesting Beach Survey, reveals a continuing decline in
loggerhead nest numbers around the state.
Loggerheads, named for its large head, are found in every ocean throughout the
world. They are typically sub-tropical in nature, nesting farther from the equator
than any other species. Humans only have habituated earth for approximately 100,000
to 200,000 years. Of the known species of turtles alive at the time of the
dinosaurs, more than 80 percent survived. The seven species found today became
distinct from all other turtles at least 110 million years ago. The Sea Turtle
Organization reports loggerhead nesting rates have declined from 85,988 nests in
1998 to approximately 45,084 in 2007.
Loggerhead nesting occurs primarily along the east coast from April through
September. Females return to their nesting beach every two or more years to lay
about four to seven nests, one about every 14 days. Each nest contains on average
100-126 eggs that incubate about 60 days.
Artificial lighting along beaches and coastlines continues to be one of the
threats on nesting beaches causing hatchlings from nests to crawl inland rather
than toward the water. On developed beaches, coastal armoring meant to protect
buildings from erosion has resulted in the loss of nesting habitat near natural
dunes. Throughout the states waters, collisions with boats constitute the
most common identifiable cause of trauma in sea turtles that wash up dead on
The Defenders of Wildlife Organization published this warning: Researchers
believe higher water temperatures in Gulf Coast areas are behind the increase in
toxic algal blooms such as the red tide that killed more than 150 manatees in 1996.
If sea temperatures continue to escalate, Atlantic coastal sea life, including
Merritt Islands, could suffer a similar fate.
Biologists have linked rising air temperatures to the greater incidence of
female hatchlings observed in loggerhead turtle populations in recent years, a
dangerous reproductive trend for the threatened turtle. Warmer sea surface
temperatures have also been related to earlier and shorter loggerhead sea turtle
nesting periods, which will most likely lead to less egg clutches oviposited per
Clearwater Marine Aquarium loggerhead turtle facts:
- The loggerhead is a large reddish brown turtle, reaching a size of 200-300 lbs
and 3 feet in length. Male loggerheads, as with all species of sea turtle, have a
tail that extends nearly a foot past their shell.
- The loggerhead is distinguished from other species of sea turtle by having a
tear drop shaped, reddish-brown shell or carapace.
- The name loggerhead is derived from the turtles large head and jaws, which
it uses to crush its favorite food items, crabs, clams, and conchs.
- The loggerhead is the only species of turtle to nest exclusively at night.
- The primary threats to the loggerhead are loss of nesting habitat to beach-front
development and associated artificial lighting, shrimping, long line fisheries
entanglements, pollution, and being hit by boats.
- Unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their
Floridians interested in doing their part to help save the ancient Florida sea
turtle can learn more about sea turtles and threats to their survival by visiting
the FWC Sea Turtles Web site for events and research.
Sources: Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.