Turtles in a (Nut)Shell
You’ve heard about them, you’ve seen them in movies, maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to see one in person. This week, we are going to take a look into the beautiful and graceful life of the sea turtle. Sea turtles have existed for about 110 million years! They are well known for their calm and gentle demeanor, their beautiful shells, and their “soaring” swimming pattern in which they travel throughout the ocean. Seven kinds of sea turtles live around the world. These turtles are known commonly as the green, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, flatback, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Sea turtles navigate and travel thousands of miles throughout their lives, and have a unique homing ability to locate the beach they were born at. When they lay their eggs, the temperature of their nest will dictate whether they will have male or female offspring.
Impact of Green on Blue
There’s no question about it; sea turtles serve a vital purpose and myriad of roles in helping keep the ocean healthy. Some sea turtles, such as the green sea turtle, are strictly herbivorous, only eating vegetation in the sea. However, other sea turtles are omnivores and will eat seagrasses, worms, algae, jellyfish, and crustaceans. This means that they are natural grazers, as well as predators. Think of them as the hearty lawn mowers of the big blue, they’re amazing! Within a food web and ecosystem such as the ocean, it is a constant ebb and flow which balances predator and prey populations. Sea turtles occupy a niche of keeping the flora of the ocean healthy and not overgrown. Additionally, they keep populations of invertebrates, such as the jellyfish, at a healthy level. Since they are migratory, sea turtles also help transport nutrients between various oceanic habitats.
It’s probably not a coincidence that only 0.1% of these sea turtles make it to the sea alive, and when they do, they can live over 100 years. They are remarkable, impactful, and invaluable to our oceans.
Let’s Turtle Bout’ It
All seven species of sea turtles found are endangered or threatened. How could this happen, you might ask? Unfortunately, they are in this position as a result of humans’ actions. Sea turtles are heavily hunted for their shells and meat, which contributes to their decline. Another huge contribution is becoming accidental bycatch in fishing lines and nets. This entangles these magnificent animals and often results in their death. Humans negatively affect reproduction and nesting abilities with encroachment onto nest sites, pollution of nest sites, and habitat loss for migration.
So what can you do to help? There are numerous things we can do to help sea turtles. Here are some small things you can do to help: pick up trash, join a beach clean up, keep our beaches clean, get a reusable water bottle and use it, limit your use of plastic bags and plastic straws, be aware and safe while boating, keep nest sites dark and free of bonfires, keep a safe distance while snorkeling or scuba diving near sea turtles, keep your dogs OFF of sea turtles nesting beach sites. Additionally, you can try to partake in the consumption of seafood only if it comes from sustainable practices and sources. A great way to ensure you are eating responsibly is to use and keep track of the current sustainable listing on the “Seafood Watch” website or app. Lastly, spread the word. It is with communication, passion, and knowledge that we can contribute to wildlife conservation and make a difference locally, which can stem to global change. Let’s appreciate, protect, and respect sea turtles so everyone can admire them in the place we love most.
Thanks for reading. Shell, noggin, dude!
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Written by: Bailey Higa