Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Life: From a Sandy Scramble to Swimming the Globe

Are sea turtle mothers thinking clearly when they lay their eggs on sandy beaches a terrifying scramble from the safety of the sea? It turns out that they are prudent mothers. Although the babies have a scary first walk, once they enter the water, they find that their mothers chose a beach near fast underwater currents. Riding these currents, the babies find ample food and over a lifetime may circumnavigate the globe.

There are seven turtle species of the seven seas. From biggest to smallest, there are Leatherback Sea Turtles, Green Sea Turtles, Flatback Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, and Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles. Leatherback Sea Turtles, protected by a tough shell, dine on stinging jellyfish. These turtles are often found off the California coast.

Loggerhead sea turtles can sense the earth's magnetic field to navigate. Over three to ten years they may completely circle the ocean. Turtles found in Baja may have been born in Japan.

Green Sea Turtles have gentle faces and like to rest on the sandy seafloor in shallow water. They can live 100 years, grow shells three feet long, and weigh up to 300 pounds. No wonder they like to rest!

Although sea turtles look prehistoric, the designs of their shells are ingenious. Scutes, or the building blocks of sea turtle's shell form a honeycomb, the most efficient way of packing like items together. Unlike land turtles, sea turtles cannot withdraw their heads and limbs into their shells.

Symbolism

For me, sea turtles represent a gentle approach to life. They rest on sandy sea floors and swim with, not against, fast currents, and in this way, achieve a long life.

In the movie Finding Nemo, the fictional sea turtles surfed fast currents just as real sea turtles seek out fast-moving water to travel great distances. In the movie, the sea turtles were gentle and mellow just as they seem to be in the wild.

Unfortunately, sea turtles' gentle lifestyle has made them vulnerable to threats from humans. The most major threat is fishing nets that span miles of ocean. The sea turtles, seeking their own food, become entangled and the nets and cannot get to the surface to breathe. These nets have been particularly dangerous for Leatherback Sea Turtles who swim vast distances in the over-fished Pacific Ocean. Scientists now estimate that only 5,000 nesting females remain in the Pacific. At this rate, the turtles may be extinct in 30 years, even though they have survived as a species since the time of the dinosaurs. Sea turtles represent a challenge to us to lobby against wasteful fishing practices that haunt not only sea turtle, but dolphins, fish, and sea birds.