Sea Turtle Species
There are seven species of sea turtles found around the world. They range in size from the giant leatherback to the much smaller (but still kinda large) olive and Kemp’s ridleys. They have roamed the oceans for more than 100 million years, primarily in the tropics and sub-tropics but sometimes ranging as far as the cold waters of Alaska and Canada.
Hawksbills: Considered by many to be the most beautiful of sea turtles for their colorful shells, the hawksbill is found in tropical waters, spending their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, oceanic islands, and shallow coastal areas. Named for their bird-like beak, hawksbills can reach into cracks and crevices of coral reefs looking for food. Their diet is very specialized, feeding almost exclusively on sponges. One of the smaller turtles, adults weigh between 100-200 pounds (45 - 90 kg) and reach 2-3 feet (roughly .5 to 1 meter) in length. Their threats include the trade in their shells, consumption of their eggs and meat, and global warming damaging coral reefs. Learn more about hawksbills.
Leatherbacks: These are by far the largest of all sea turtles, and one of the largest reptiles on earth. They range in size from 4-8 feet in length (1.2 - 2.4 meters) and weigh between 500-2,000 pounds (225 - 900 kg). The average adult measures in between 5-6 feet (1.5 - 1.8 m) and weighs 600-800 pounds (270 - 360 kg). The oldest of all sea turtle species, it has been around for more than 150 million years and are the most widely distributed of all turtles. Their primary threats are consumption of their eggs, entanglement in fishing gear, unsustainable coastal development, and plastic pollution. Learn more about leatherbacks.
Green Turtles: The green turtle is the second largest sea turtle after the leatherback. They can weigh up to 500 lbs (225 kg) and reach four feet (1.2 m) in length. The adults are primarily herbivores, dining on sea grasses, seaweeds, algae and other forms of marine plant life. Their beak is sharp and finely serrated, perfectly adapted for grazing in seagrass beds and scraping algae off of hard surfaces. This species can be found in tropical and sub-tropical ocean around the world. Their threats include consumption of their meat and eggs, unsustainable coastal development, entanglement in fishing gear, plastic pollution, and global warming. Learn more about green turtles.
Kemp’s Ridleys: These are the smallest of the seven sea turtle species, weighing between 75-100 pounds (35 - 45 kg) and measuring approximately 2 feet (.6 m) in length. They live primarily in the Gulf of Mexico and the US East Coast and possess triangular shaped heads with hooked beaks and strong jaws. They inhabit nearshore habitats where they forage for their favorite prey, crabs. They also eat fish, jellies, shrimp, and a variety of molluscs. Until recently, the endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle was on the brink of extinction in the but thanks to efforts in Mexico and the US, the species has begun a slow, but steady comeback. Their threats include entanglement in fishing gear, oil spills, plastic pollution, and consumption of their eggs. Learn more about Kemp’s ridleys.
Olive Ridleys: The second smallest after the Kemp’s ridley, the olive ridley turtles weigh between 75-100 pounds (34 - 45 kg) and reach 2-2 ½ feet (roughly .6 m) in length. They are named for their pale green carapace, or shell and are the most abundant of sea turtle species. This species is known best for its mass nesting events called “arribadas.” During an arribada, thousands of females may nest over the course of a few days to a few weeks. Their primary threats include consumption of their eggs and meat, unsustainable coastal development, and entanglement in fishing gear. Learn more about olive ridleys.
Loggerheads: One of the larger species of sea turtles, the loggerhead turtle ranges from 200-400 pounds (90 - 180 kg) and up to 4 feet in length (1.2 meters). They occur throughout temperate and tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. They are named for their large head and strong crushing jaw (right) which enables them to eat hard-shelled prey such as crabs, conchs, and whelks and they are found in every ocean around the world. Their primary threats are entanglement in fishing gear, consumption of their meat and eggs, unsustainable coastal development, plastic pollution, and global warming. Learn more about loggerheads.
Flatbacks: The flatback turtle is named after its flat carapace, or shell, which is unlike the curved shell of other sea turtle species. The carapace is pale grayish-green in color with the outer margins distinctly upturned. An adult flatback weighs 200 pounds and is approximately 3 feet in length. They have the smallest distribution of all the species and breed and nest only in Australia. Their threats include consumption of their eggs and meat, unsustainable coastal development, and plastic pollution. Learn more about flatbacks.