Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The loggerhead sea turtle is perhaps the most common of the sea turtles. It gets its name from the large head that is shaped like a log. This reddish-brown turtle averages 3 feet in length and weighs around 400 pounds. Loggerheads can also live more than 50 years. Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air for the oxygen needed to meet the demands of vigorous swimming activity. Their smooth shells and paddle-like flippers help move swiftly through the water at speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
Loggerheads can be found worldwide in all but the coldest waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. They live in the open water or in coastal areas. Loggerheads are the only one that still regularly nests on the U. S. Atlantic Coast, on beaches from New Jersey to Texas. The highest populations in North America are found on barrier islands from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. This species does not generally come on land, though females will come ashore to lay eggs.
The loggerhead sea turtle’s powerful jaws are well suited to eating hard-shelled prey. They feed on crabs and other crustaceans, mollusks, jellyfish and sometimes fish and eelgrass.
Male sea turtles almost never leave the ocean whereas females only leave to lay eggs. The U.S. nesting season occurs from April through September, with a peak in June and July. Nesting occurs primarily at night. Loggerheads are known to nest from one to seven times within a nesting season (mean is about 4.1 nests per season) at intervals of approximately 14 days. Mean clutch size varies from about 100 to 126 along the southeastern U.S. coast. Incubation duration ranges from about 42 to 75 days, depending on incubation temperatures. Hatchlings generally emerge at night. Age at sexual maturity is believed to be about 32 to 35 years.
Hatchlings and young Loggerheads are at a greater risk for predation. However, once the turtles reach adulthood, their size protects them from predation from most large marine animals. The greatest threat is loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development, predation of nests, and human disturbances like coastal lighting and housing developments that cause disorientations during the emergence of hatchlings. Other major threats include incidental capture in longline fishing, shrimp trawling and pollution. Incidental capture in fisheries is thought to have played a significant role in the recent population declines observed for the loggerhead. Although sea turtles cannot withdraw their heads into their shells, the adults are protected from predators by their shells, large size and thick scaly skin on their heads and necks Loggerhead Sea Turtle is currently listed as “Threatened” on The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List and now they are now listed as “Endangered” on the IUNC Red List of Threatened Species.