All About Sea Turtles

The Earth has many beings, each unique in form. The Sea turtle is one of God's unique creations found in the ocean. To know more about this reptile, read this article which is all about sea turtles.
| Saturday, July 09, 2011
Life evolved millions of years ago and so did sea turtles! Sea turtles live in brackish or marine environment. These reptiles are blessed with flippers that are long and like a paddle; this feature helps them swim easily. Apart from this sea turtles are also have a streamlined carapace (shell) which also contributes to their ability to swim well in the ocean.

Sea turtles have scales and are cold blooded. All sea turtles have a bony outer shell to protect themselves from the predators of the deep. This shell covers the back as well as the belly of the sea turtle. The carapace, which is the dorsal (back) portion of the shell has large structures that resemble scales. These structures are called scutes. The plastron is the name given to the ventral (belly) region of the shell. Hard-shelled plates known as lateral bridges are what connect the two regions of the shell. The head, tail and limbs are visible through the openings found in the carapace and plastron. Sea turtles do not have the ability to retract their heads from their shells!

These creatures need air to breathe and this is the reason that when active they swim to the surface every few minutes. In a state of rest adult sea turtles are able to remain for more than 2 hours without breathing. Sea turtles are able to perform this fete because of the fact that they are capable of containing high concentrations of carbon dioxide their blood, which in turn helps them use the oxygen in their body more efficiently. This ability is not well developed in juvenile sea turtles because of which they sleep afloat of the surface of the water. To get rid of body of salts sea turtles possess a salt gland behind each eye. These glands help sea turtles maintain a healthy water balance by getting rid of extra salt in the form of tears.

What do sea turtles eat? Well each sea turtle has a unique diet. Green sea turtles eat sea grass while the leatherback sea turtles rely on a diet of soft bodied animals and jellyfish. The adult loggerhead and a few other species are carnivores and thus live on eats horseshoe crabs, crabs, fish and conchs.

Reproduction in Sea Turtles

The life of sea turtles begins as eggs are buried in the sand. Once the two month incubation period is complete the baby sea turtles hatch and find their way into the sea. They fight for survival in the sea and stay there until they turn about a foot long after which they move closer to the shore in search of food. It is at the age of 30 that sea turtles mature. Male sea turtles spend their entire life in the sea while the females mate in the sea and then reach the beach and lay their eggs in a hole. A female sea turtle may lay eggs many times during a single mating season. The average life span of sea turtles is about 80 years.

Sea Turtles' Migration

The migration of sea turtles is extreme since there are times when they travel thousands of miles between warm nesting grounds and cooling feeding grounds. In January 2008 a leatherback sea turtle was said to have travelled over 12,000 miles, which was one of the longest known vertebrae migrations known at that time. With the help of tracking devices more turtles today are being tracked thus providing us with more information about their migrations as well as the implications their travels have for their protection. This is important since the laws protecting sea turtles in one area may prove inadequate if they do not apply to the area to which they migrate.

Factors Responsible for the Decrease of Sea Turtles:

There was a time when several million sea turtles were found all over the world. Unfortunately the scenario today is different with the number of nesting females said to be fewer than 200,000. Scientists in Hawaii provide an estimate that only about 100 to 350 females only nest each year and this is predominately at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwest Hawaiian chain. The factors that have caused the decrease at this alarming rate have been listed here:

Hunting

Sea turtles are precious reptiles and this is what makes poachers hunt them. Beautiful ornaments and jewelry are made from their shells and their skin is used to make leather goods. Their eggs and meat are used as food and their fat as oil. In the past before the introduction of laws like the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, these turtles were killed in large numbers in order to feed fishing crews as well as provide meat for restaurants. Sea turtles take about 20 years to reach sexual maturity and it is due to this reason that the evidence of population recovery since the passing of the act has taken many years.

Fisheries and their Effects

Another reason that causes the deaths of sea turtles is fishing gear. More than 10,000 sea turtles are trapped and drowned each year all because of the nets used by commercial brine shrimp fishers. If only the shrimpers used turtle excluder devices (TEDS) that many sea turtles would be saved. Despite the laws asking shrimpers to use these devices many don’t do so which causes harm to turtles. Apart from this discarded fishing gear like driftnets, coastal gill nets and longlines also cause the death of these innocent creatures.

Development of the Coast and Degradation of Habitat

Coastal development is in a large way responsible for the decline in the population of sea turtles around the world. It is because of this development that females are left without a familiar place to lay their eggs. Beach obstructions, noise and lights, pollution and degradation of their natural habitat also add to the situation.

Fibropapilloma

Recently a disease called Fibropapilloma is causing the growth of large bulbous tumors on the soft tissues of sea turtles. These tumors are slowly spreading to other parts of the body and ultimately killing them. Scientists have been studying this disease and are of the opinion that there may be virus or parasite involved. Some even suspect that it may be caused by marine pollution.

How You Can Make a Difference

Everything God created He did so with a purpose and you as a responsible human can do you bit by taking care of your surroundings. You can also keep yourself informed about their condition and meet others who feel like you do. Join a support group like Sea Turtle Conservancy or just spread the word around. Remember, sea turtles too have a right to live!!
   
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