Loggerheads are the most abundant species of sea turtle found in US coastal waters and are the most common turtle to nest on the East Coast of Florida. Loggerhead tracks are the most often seen sea turtle tracks on beaches during nesting season. So far this year, there have been 122 recorded Loggerhead turtle nests in Boca Raton alone! These turtles are named after their massive, block-like head. Adult loggerheads on average weigh 275 pounds and can have a shell length of about 3 feet. They use their powerful jaws to crush clams, crabs, and other crustaceans. Loggerheads are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Green Turtles are named after their green body fat and can also be found on Florida's beaches each year. Approximately 100 - 1,000 green turtles nest on Florida's coast during nesting season. However, there are been zero nests recorded so far this nesting season in Boca Raton, FL. Last year there was a total of 300 recorded Green Turtle nests, up 114% from 2016! During the day they are found in shallow flats and seagrass meadows and return to their usual rock ledges, coral reefs, and oyster bars to sleep during the evening. Adult green turtles are unique in that they are largely vegetarians! They can weigh up to 350 pounds and its shell can grow to about 3.3 feet. Based on a study conducted on the maturity rate of Green Sea Turtles, it was found that this species is the slowest of all sea turtle species to sexually mature based off of known life spans for these turtles which may be one of the reasons why their populations are declining (Hirth 1997). Green Turtles are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Last, but certainly not least, the Leatherback Sea Turtle. They are the largest species of all sea turtles and are very distinct. Instead of a hard shell like other turtles, they are covered with a firm, leathery skin. This covering helps them tolerate stings from jellyfish - which is their most frequent meal. Unlike other turtles, Leatherbacks can regulate their body temperature which allows them to be able to tolerate colder water and have even been found in waters as cold as Alaska and Labrador! They can also descend great depths of more than 3,000 feet. Leatherbacks on average can grow up to 6 feet in length and can weigh anywhere from 500 - 1,500 pounds. The largest Leatherback recorded to date was found washed ashore in 1988. Unfortunately, the turtle had drowned after being entangled in fishing lines. It was approximately 100 years old, 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds! Leatherbacks are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. However, there have been 18 recorded nests in Boca Raton so far this nesting season, whereas only 5 total nests were recorded all of last year!
The FAU Marine Research Lab cares for all three species of sea turtles listed above. Each Sea Turtle Season, the lab takes in hundreds of new hatchlings to study and evaluate them in order to further our understanding and better our conservation efforts for these marine animals. The lab also takes in sick hatchlings and gives them the treatment they need to get better to be released back into the ocean. Throughout the month of June, you can support our cleanup efforts as well as the research and conservation efforts of the FAU Marine Research Lab by purchasing the Limited Edition Sea Turtle Bracelet. Get yours HERE.
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As we got closer to the ocean floor, we began to approach a reef; this reef was nothing short of epic. The colours were bright and everything appeared to be healthy with marine life flourishing... that was until the current changed. Within seconds, this heaving reef became surrounded with plastic and rubbish.