The Kemp’s ridley turtle is one of the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults reaching about 2 feet in length and weighing up to about 100 pounds. The Kemp’s ridley has a triangular-shaped head with a somewhat hooked beak with large crushing surfaces. This turtle is a shallow water benthic feeder with a diet consisting primarily of crabs. Nesting occurs from April into July during which it is essentially limited to the beaches of the western Gulf of Mexico, and also occurs regularly in Texas and infrequently in a few other U.S. states. Sexual maturity is believed to be reached at about 12 years.
The green sea turtle grows to a maximum size of about 4 feet and a weight of 440 pounds. It has a heart-shaped shell, small head, and single-clawed flippers. Color is variable. Hatchling green turtles eat a variety of plants and animals, but adults feed almost exclusively on seagrasses and marine algae. Green turtles are generally found in fairly shallow waters (except when migrating) inside reefs, bays, and inlets. The turtles are attracted to lagoons and shoals with an abundance of marine grass and algae. In the southeastern U.S., it is roughly June through September. Nesting occurs nocturnally at 2, 3, or 4-year intervals.Age at sexual maturity is believed to be 20 to 50 years.
The hawksbill is a small to medium-sized marine turtle having an elongated oval shell with overlapping scutes on the carapace, a relatively small head with a distinctive hawk-like beak, and flippers with two claws. General coloration is brown with numerous splashes of yellow, orange, or reddish-brown on the carapace. As an adult, the average hawksbill is about 2½ feet in length and typically weigh around 176 pounds or less. The hawksbill feeds primarily on sponges and is most often associated with the coral reef community.The nesting season varies with locality, but in most locations nesting occurs sometime between April and November. Age at sexual maturity has been estimated as 20 or more years in the Caribbean.
The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and most migratory and wide ranging of all sea turtles. The adult leatherback can reach 4 to 8 feet in length and 500 to 2000 pounds in weight. The skin is predominantly black with varying degrees of pale spotting; including a notable pink spot on the dorsal surface of the head in adults. Jellyfish are the main staple of its diet, but it is also known to feed on sea urchins, squid, crustaceans, tunicates, fish, blue-green algae, and floating seaweed. In the U.S., nesting occurs from about March to July. Emergence of hatchlings occurs at night. Leatherbacks are believed to reach sexual maturity in about 16 years.
Sea Turtle Species
Loggerheads were named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. The loggerhead nesting aggregations in Oman, the U.S., and Australia account for about 88% of nesting worldwide. In the southeastern U.S., about 80% of loggerhead nesting occurs in six Florida counties (Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward Counties). The U.S. nesting season occurs from April through September, with a peak in June and July. Nesting occurs primarily at night.Age at sexual maturity is believed to be about 32 to 35 years.
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