March 5, 2013

Species Spotlight: the Loggerhead Turtle

Sea turtle news is always a bit slower in Southwest Florida this time of year. As we prepare for the upcoming nesting season, it’s a great time to learn a more about the sea turtle species found in Florida’s waters.  Today, meet the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). The loggerhead got its name from its large head, which supports strong jaws used to crush the whelks and conch it eats. They have a reddish brown carapace (top shell) and a pale yellow plastron (bottom shell). Loggerheads are approximately 3 feet long and typically weigh around 250 pounds. 

Rare daytime nesting loggerhead covering her nest. Photo by: A. Bryant
The nesting season for loggerhead turtles in Southwest Florida “officially” begins on May 1, although, some females have been known to nest in April. Nesting continues into late August or early September.  Females usually come ashore at night and lay an average of 100 leathery eggs that resemble ping-pong balls. Incubation lasts about two months. Hatchlings are two inches long and emerge at night. They crawl toward the brightest horizon, which is usually the water when there is no artificial lighting present.
Loggerhead turtles are found worldwide. The United States is the second most important nesting ground for this species. Florida is home to 90% of the loggerhead nesting in the U.S.

Loggerhead hatchling. Photo by: J. Jones

All sea turtle species are at risk of extinction. They are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The population of loggerhead turtles that nest in Southwest Florida are listed as threatened.

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