Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Range/Geographical Distribution: Found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea.
Habitat: Hatchlings are thought to spend the first ten years of their life in the open ocean drifting with the currents and associating with mats of sargassum seaweed. Juveniles can be found in nearshore waters like bays and estuaries. Adults are found inshore and in the open ocean and some individuals migrate thousands of miles.
Description: Adults have a reddish-brown heart-shaped carapace and a pale yellow plastron. Hatchlings are a brownish gray. The head is relatively large with powerful jaws.
Size: Adult loggerheads can reach 43 inches in length and weigh over 300 lbs. Hatchlings are two inches in length and weigh a mere 20 grams at birth.
Food: Many types of organisms including sponges, whelks, crabs, and other invertebrates.
Breeding: Mating occurs between March and June. Nesting females lay over 100 eggs in buried nests on beaches above the high tide line from May to October. After about two months of incubation the hatchlings emerge and scramble back to the ocean.
Predators: Adults have few predators but eggs and hatchlings may be consumed by crabs, fish, birds, raccoons, and hogs.
Conservation Status: Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Also listed as endangered in Georgia and threatened federally. Faces threats including direct harvest, entanglement in fishing gear, and loss of nesting habitat.
Interesting Facts: As a loggerhead hatchling grows its weight increases by more than 6,000 times. Traction scales on the bottom of these turtles’ flippers help them to walk along the ocean floor. Loggerhead sea turtles do not reach sexual maturity until they are about 30 years old.
On the Coast: Loggerhead sea turtles nest on all of Georgia’s beaches. Conservation efforts along the coast include dawn patrols during nesting season and nest “sitting” during hatching to help increase the survival of young turtles.