Did you know that sea turtles are one of the most ancient creatures on the earth? They have been around since the time of dinosaurs and have barely changed in over 110 million years! You will find sea turtles in different sizes and colors. They are cold-blooded, have a three-chambered heart, and scaly skin, which is why they are categorized as reptiles. Since these turtles spend most of their time in water and seldom come on land, there is very limited information about them.
However, if you are curious to know more about this unusual and mysterious marine animal, then read on, as MomJunction has got you all the information you would want to know, with our collection of sea turtle facts for kids. What’s best is that we bring you a tiny quiz at the end, just to see you little kid squeal in excitement as he masters the quiz!
Sea Turtle Information For Kids:
1. What Are Sea Turtles?
Sea turtles, also known as marine turtles, have been on planet Earth since the late Jurassic era. All sea turtles species, except the leatherback, belong to the Cheloniidae family. The leatherback belongs to the Dermochelyidae family and is its only type that is still in existence. Unlike other turtles, the sea turtle cannot draw up its legs and head into its protective shell or the carapace.
[ Read: Water Animal Facts For Kids ]
2. How To Identify A Sea Turtle?
The sea turtle’s major difference from other turtles is its shell. Sea turtles have big shells that are made of bone and cartilage. Their color varies from species to species. Shells of all sea turtles, except the leatherback, have a layer of thin plates called scutes covering it. Scutes are flexible but firm. The species of sea turtles is mainly identified by the number and pattern of scutes. However, the leatherback’s shell has a leathery skin instead of scutes covering its shell. It acts as an insulator and enables the leatherback to easily survive in cold waters. The lower side of the turtle, the ventral, of the shell is known as the plastron.
3. How To Determine The Sex Of A Sea Turtle?
When younger, sea turtles appear the same externally irrespective of their gender. As the turtles grow older, the males show longer and thicker tails as compared to their female counterparts. The tail of the males tends to extend further than the hind flippers. This is because the male’s reproductive organ is situated at the base of its tail.
4. Where Do Sea Turtles Live?
Sea turtles live in warm and temperate seas around the globe. They spend more time in the water than land. They come on land mostly to lay eggs. Adult sea turtles are generally spotted in coastal waters, bays, lagoons, estuaries and even the open sea whereas the younger turtles live around bays, estuaries, and the sea.
5. What Is The Life Span Of Sea Turtles?
Since sea turtles live in deep waters it is difficult to ascertain much about them. However, scientists believe that sea turtles outlive humans and can live more than 150 years.
6. What Do Sea Turtles Eat?
The food habits of sea turtles depend on on the species of sea turtles. Some species are carnivores, eating other animals, while some sea turtles are herbivores eating only plants. Some turtles are omnivores i.e. they consume both plants and meat.
7. What Are The Different Species Of Sea Turtles?
Green sea turtle, Leatherback sea turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle, Kemps Ridley sea turtle, Olive Ridley sea turtle, and the Flatback sea turtle are the types of sea turtles still in existence.
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8. Facts And Information About Green Sea Turtle:
- Description: Chelonia mydas is named as Green Sea Turtle because the fat under its shell is green in color. The green sea turtle is about 5 ½ feet long and weighs up to 700 pounds. It has a single pair of scales before its eyes and has a small head. The top of its shell is red and orange. Scientists believe that the color on its shell changes through its lifetime.
- Diet: The newborn generally eat other sea animals like worms and insects. As they grow older, around the age of 3 years, they turn vegetarians and stop consuming meat thereafter. They mostly eat algae and sea grass.
- Reproduction: Green sea turtles mate every two to four years. Male turtles return to their birth location for mating. On the other hand, female turtles have multiple breeding grounds and may not always mate in the same place. These turtles mate in shallow waters close to the shore. Female turtles lay up to 100 to 200 eggs.
- Habitat: Green sea turtles are mostly found in temperate and tropical waters. They only venture around coastlines and islands. They prefer regions having plenty of seagrass beds. (1)
9. Facts And Information About Leatherback Sea Turtle:
- Description: Dermochelys coriacea commonly known as the Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest sea turtle and is the world’s fourth largest reptile. It is the only sea turtle that does not have a hard shell. It is around 7 feet long and weighs more than 2,000 pounds. The ridges along their carapace and the streamlined body shape enable it to smoothly move in water and easily cover large distances. Its carapace is dark gray or black in color with white or pale spots.
- Diet: Leatherback is carnivores but its jaw is not strong enough to chew on hard-bodied prey. They mostly survive on soft-bodied animals like jellyfish and salps.
- Reproduction: Leatherback sea turtles mate in water between the age of 8 and 15 years. They mate according to seasons. The female leatherback sea turtle lays up to 80 fertilized eggs and 30 unfertilized eggs in each nest. Female leatherback turtles may not necessarily create a nest in the same beach.
- Habitat: They live in the open ocean and are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. They are the only species that can easily survive under water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. (2)
10. Facts And Information About Loggerhead Sea Turtle:
- Description: Loggerhead sea turtle is named so because its head is larger than any other sea turtle. Its scientific name is Caretta caretta. It has a big head with heavy strong jaws. Its carapace is almost heart shaped and is reddish-brown in color. Meanwhile, its plastron is yellowish-brown. An adult loggerhead is grown up to 3 feet and weighs around 250 pounds.
- Diet: Loggerheads have strong jaws and relish eating fishes with hard shells. They mostly eat horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, clams, conchs, and mussels. Occasionally they also have seaweed and sargassum.
- Reproduction: Loggerhead sea turtle mates only after it turns 33 years. Male and female turtles migrate to breeding grounds and the female turtles decide their mating partner. The females can reproduce multiple times in one mating season. The female turtle lays around 100 to 126 eggs in each nest that takes about 2 months to hatch.
- Habitat: They prefer living along beaches with grainy sand. However, they are also found along the continental shelves of the major oceans Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. (3)
11. Facts And Information About Hawksbill Sea Turtle:
- Description: Hawksbill sea turtle has a small narrow head and hawk-like beak, hence the name. It is scientifically known as Eretmochelys imbricate. It is around 45 inches in length and 150 pounds in weight. It is born with a heart-shaped upper shell that elongates as it grows older. Its carapace is orange, brown or yellow in color. They have 2 pairs of scales on the front of their bodies and tiny claws on their front flippers.
- Diet: Hawksbills are found mostly among healthy coral reef communities and eat a lot of sponges. Its beak shaped jaws enables it to eat food from crevices in coral reefs. It also consumes mollusks, marine algae, anemones, sea urchins, squid, jellyfish, and shrimp.
- Reproduction: They mate every two to three years and prefer mating in shallow waters close to beaches. The females lay about 100 to 150 eggs in a nest that takes around 60 days to hatch.
- Habitat: Hawksbill Sea Turtles are mostly found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. They avoid venturing into deep waters and mainly move around rocky areas. Their place for settlement is areas having plenty of sponges with nesting sites at a close distance. Coral reef areas are mostly populated with Hawksbill sea turtles. (4)
12. Facts And Information About Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle:
- Description: Kemp’s Ridley Turtle derives its name from a fisherman named Richard Kemp, who discovered this turtle. Its scientific name is Lepidochelys kempii. They are one of the smallest sea turtles weighing barely 100 pounds with a length of around 2 feet. They are the most endangered species of sea turtles. Their carapace is wide and round and is generally olive-gray in color. Its plastron is white to yellowish.
- Diet: They are omnivores thriving on clams, jellyfish, mussels, shrimps, shellfish, fish, sea urchins, squid seaweed, and sargassum. However, they enjoy eating crabs the most which is a reason why they prefer shallow waters.
- Reproduction: Kemp’s Ridley Turtle mate mostly in waters after maturing between the ages of 10 to 20 years. Female turtles lay about 100 eggs in each nest that hatch after 60 days. They are the only sea turtles that lay eggs during the day. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles lay eggs in large groups. They lay their nests along the coast of the state of Tamaulipas, on the Gulf coast of Mexico.
- Habitat: They are mostly found in the coastal waters and bays of the Gulf of Mexico and the northern Atlantic Ocean. They mostly prefer shallow areas having sandy and muddy bottoms. (5)
13. Facts And Information About Olive Ridley Sea Turtle:
- Description: Lepidochelys olivaceaf is commonly known as the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. Its skin and carapace is slightly green in color which is why it is named Olive Ridley. The younger ones charcoal gray in color. Olive Ridley is the smallest marine turtle weighing up to 100 pounds with a length of only 2 feet. Its head is slightly smaller than that of Kemp’s Ridley.
- Diet: It is omnivorous with a strong jaw and feeds on jellyfish, snails, lobster, mollusks, tunicates, fish, crabs, and shrimp. It also indulges in algae and seaweed.
- Reproduction: Olive Ridley matures at the age of 15 years. The females reproduce once or even twice a year. They lay around 100 eggs in a nest that hatches after around 50 to 60 days later.
- Habitat: Olive Ridley sea turtles love the open ocean. They are mostly found in the Pacific Ocean. Their population majorly settles in around beaches in Mexico, coastal regions of South America and West Africa and parts of Southern California and Northern Chile. (6)
[ Read: Great White Shark Facts For Kids ]
14. Facts And Information About Flatback Sea Turtle:
- Description: Flatback Sea Turtle, scientifically known as Natator depressus, has a shell that appears flat on the top. Its flat back enables it to move smoothly in water. Its carapace is oval or round with upturned edges and olive to dark green in color. Its plastron is a lighter shade of pale yellow. Its head is relatively small with a long pointed tip. The scutes of the hatchlings have a dark-grey reticulate pattern. The scute is olive colored in the middle. A fully grown Flatback sea turtle measures up to 3.3 feet in length and weighs around 198 pounds. The female turtles are generally larger than their male counterparts.
- Diet: The flatback sea turtle is omnivorous and eats sea cucumbers, mollusks, jellyfish, prawns, bryozoans, soft corals, seagrasses, and seaweed. Their choice of invertebrates varies by location.
- Reproduction: Flatback Sea Turtle matures anywhere between 7 to 50 years of age. They can nest up to 4 times a season. The female turtle lays up to 50 eggs in a nest. Their eggs are double the size of other turtles. The nesting season starts from October and stretches till February. The female turtles opt for sandy beaches in tropical and subtropical areas for nesting the eggs. The flatback has very limited distribution and can nest and breed only in Australia.
- Habitat: Flatbacks do not travel over a large area like other turtles and are only found in Indonesia, Australia, and New Guinea. They prefer grassy shorelines with coastal reef areas being their most ideal habitat.
15. Why Are Sea Turtles Vital To The Eco-system?
- Sea grass a ground is a breeding and feeding ground for several marine animals. Maintaining seagrass is important because they are a means to sustain life under water. Sea turtles maintain the seabed by eating sea grass. They stop sea grass from overgrowing or getting longer blades.
- Dune vegetation is essential to maintain sand around beaches. The egg shells of sea turtles have nutrients that boost dune vegetation which majorly improves the quality of sand. Dune vegetation help to hold the sand protects the beach from erosion.
- Leatherback mainly eats jellyfish that which thrive on fish larvae. The decline in leatherback population has led to an increase in jellyfish which is a major reason for the decline in fish.
- Sea turtles help to maintain the balance in the marine and sand system. If these reptiles go extinct these two ecosystems will be heavily affected directly impacting human life.
16. Why Are They Endangered?
Sea turtles may be the longest surviving creature on planet Earth but recently its survival has been threatened to the extent that it has been listed as an endangered species. The causes for the decline in their population are as follows:
- Fishing Gear: every year there hundreds of sea turtles accidently get caught in fishing nets and longlines. They are either killed or injured in these fishing operations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NMFS) has taken several serious measures to protect threatened sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Artificial Lights: Female sea turtles prefer quiet and dark beaches to nest their eggs. However, the increasing human population around coastlines has led to a rise in artificial lightning’s which discourage females from entering well-lit areas of the beach. They instead opt for isolated regions of the beach which are not ideal for nesting of eggs. Moreover, brightly lit areas confuse hatchlings and they are unable to reach the water which can get them hunted down by predators.
- Natural Predators: The eggs laid by female sea turtles face a threat from predators such as crabs, raccoons, and boars. It is important that these eggs are protected from such predators. Hatchlings further have to dodge threats of birds, coyotes, and sharks to survive. Furthermore, female turtles have been attacked by dogs when then come on land to lay eggs. Since turtles spend most of their time underwater, they are unable to move swiftly and defend themselves on land.
- Water Pollution: Large-scale pollution and incidents of oil spills in water bodies have had a negative impact on the natural habitat of sea turtles. Contamination of seas and oceans not only kills aquatic animals but also poison the plants that grown under water.
- Global Warming: The increasing temperatures across the globe have not spared sea turtles. The rise in sea level affects turtles too. Sea turtles have a sharp memory. Once they lay their eggs in a particular spot on a beach they return to the same place years later to hatch their eggs. Loss of coastline leaves no place for sea turtles to create a nest for their eggs. Also, the temperature of the sand plays an important part in influencing the gender of the turtle. Generally, the eggs laid in the lower, cooler, part of the nest turn males on hatching, hatchling from the upper, warmer, part of the nest become females. If the temperature continues to rise there were be a decline in male population leading to catastrophic misbalance in genetic diversity.
[ Read: Whale Facts For Kids ]
17. What Can You Do To Protect And Preserve Sea Turtles?
- Maintain cleanliness at beaches and do not litter.
- If you happen to spot a turtle at a beach, do not go too close to it. You might scare it.
- Contribute and participate in restoration events that restore sea turtle nesting beaches.
- Avoid having campfires at beaches as sea turtles are easily attracted to fire and they die in these fires.
- Spread awareness amongst your family and friends about the dwindling numbers of sea turtles. Help garner signature for petitions that ask the government to take action for the preservation of sea turtles.
- Do not leave chairs, umbrellas, and boats, at the beach at night. These things confuse turtles and deviate their tracks from the place of nesting. They also obstruct hatchling from entering the sea.
- When buying fish, ensure that the fish has been caught by responsible fisheries who use turtle-friendly methods to capture fish.
Fun Sea Turtle Facts For Kids:
- Male sea turtles spend their entire lives underwater. Female sea turtle come to land only to lay eggs. Since male species do not have to do anything with eggs, they do not leave the ocean.
- Sea turtles cry. Sea turtles have eye glands that enable them to get rid of any excess salt in their eyes. When doing so it looks like they are crying.
- Sea Turtle eggs are round in shape. Female sea turtles lay about 150 eggs at a time and these eggs resemble tiny balls because of their round shape.
- Sea turtles love to travel. Sea turtles enjoy traveling around and can track over 10,000 miles every year.
- Sea turtles have stronger muscles than humans.
- Sea turtles can hold their breath for more than 30 minutes.
- The leatherback sea turtles can reach as deep as 1000 feet deep in the ocean.
- The largest sea turtle ever discovered weighed around 2,020 pounds with a length of 9.8 feet.
[ Read: Clownfish Facts For Kids ]
We hope you and your child enjoyed reading these facts and information about sea turtles. If you want to know about any other animal or if you want to add more information about sea turtles then do let us know by commenting below.
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