Sea turtles are wondrous creatures, as you’ll learn as you read the 30 fun facts about sea turtles listed below. Sea turtles fight many odds, and it is estimated that only 1 in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood, which can take up to 50 years to reach.
30 Fun Facts About Sea Turtles
- Many sponges are toxic for other species to eat due to their glass-like spikes that grow within them. However, Hawksbill Sea turtles are completely immune to these spikes, so they are considered a great help around coral reefs as less sponges allow for a greater diversity of species to thrive.
- While land turtles and tortoises can retract into their shells, sea turtles are unable to do so.
- When sea turtles sleep, they can slow their heart rate to as slow as 4 beats per minute to conserve oxygen.
- When they do sleep, they like to hide amongst rocks.
- Sea turtles don’t have ear holes! While they do still have ears, they are covered by a thin layer of skin called the tympanum.
- Sea grass is a favorite food of green sea turtles. They eat so much leafy greens that by the time they are an adult, their fat deposits can be green!
- Sea turtles can stay under water for about 7 hours when the weather is cold, and they are effectively hibernating.
- The eyesight of sea turtles is quite good. Typically, they are far-sighted in the water and more near-sighted above water. They can perceive shorter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing sea turtles to see UV light. Something humans can’t perceive without technology!
- Although turtles can hold their breath for 45 minutes to one hour during routine activity, they normally dive for 4 to 5 minutes and surface to breathe for a few seconds in between dives.
- While typically sea turtles prefer to move at around 1-5mph, when frightened, they have been found to swim up to 23 miles per hour.
- Most sea turtles build their nests at night, but the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle consistently likes to build their nests at night.
- The females of both ridley sea turtles like to nest in large groups called “arribadas”, which is Spanish for “arrival”. No other species of sea turtles have been found to show this group nesting behavior.
- After mating, female turtles return to the beach where they were born to nest. This is called natal homing. For a female sea turtle, migrating and nesting is so tiring that after nesting 2 to 5 times in a season, she will need to take a break for 1 to 3 years to get her strength back to mate again.
- The beaks of sea turtles are made of keratin, which is the same thing our fingernails and rhinoceroses’ horns are made of.
- Although leatherbacks are considered cold-blooded, they have internal mechanisms that allow them to regulate their body temperature, allowing them to survive even in the colder waters of the Arctic circle and the warmer temperatures of tropical beaches.
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtle are considered the smallest of the seven species, with leatherbacks being the largest.
- The Olive ridley is nicknamed the “dancing turtle” because when the females cover up their eggs, they appear to do a little dance. Their bodies and flippers are light, so as they try to move around and cover the eggs with sand, they bounce around, and it looks like they are dancing.
- Sea turtles will return to the area where they were born to mate. However, it can take 15 to 50 years to do make this return.
- A turtle’s lungs has two functions. It stores oxygen and helps the turtle stay buoyant and float at the surface of the water. After inhaling at the surface, a turtle becomes buoyant and can rest at the surface.
- The incubation time for sea turtle eggs is 50 to 70 days.
Nesting turtles use their front flippers to dig themselves into a body pit first, before they dig a deeper egg chamber with their back flippers by scooping out the sand. Then they lay the eggs by dropping them into the egg chamber.The depth of the egg chamber is important because a sea turtle’s gender is determined during incubation based on the temperature of the nest.
- The dept of the egg chamber is important because the sea turtle’s gender is determined during incubation, based on the temperature of the next. If the temperature is is below 81.86 Fahrenheit, the turtle hatchlings will be male. If the eggs incubate above 87.8° Fahrenheit, however, the hatchlings will be female.
- The turtle hatchlings emerge together at nightfall in order to help protect against predators and the hat of the day.
- A female will lay between 2 and 6 nests per season. She typically returns every two weeks to build a new nest. She does not return to check on her previous nests.
- Sea turtles make their nest above the high tide line to prevent the nest from flooding and the sand surrounding the next becoming too wet and compact. The nest needs to have some air pockets that provide oxygen.
- Sea turtles spend the first 48 hours of their life swimming away from the coastal area where they hatched. They head to the deep sea where they can hide in and feed on seaweed. Once they are bigger they will visit coastal areas.
- It is estimated that only one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood, which can take up to 50 years to reach.
- Scientists studying sea turtles cannot tell the age of a turtle by examining it. The only way to determine a turtle’s age is examining their humerus bone after the turtle has passed away. The process is called skeletochronology. Just like a tree trunk has rings, the turtle’s humerus bone has growth rings scientists can examine.
- You can tell the difference between a male and female sea turtle by looking at the tail and front flippers. Males have a longer tail than females. Plus, males have a curved claw on their front flippers. EXCEPT…leatherback males do not have a curved claw.
- Leatherbacks are the largest living sea turtles and are the sea turtle that can dive the deepest at more than 1,000 meters or 3,000 feet.
Learn more about sea turtles and enjoy sea turtle learning activities for kids by downloading our sea turtle lesson found here. Use these 30 fun facts to complete the activities.