Sea Turtle Pictures

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Green Turtle

Green Turtle / Andy Bruckner, NOAA
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Andy Bruckner, NOAA

Have you ever seen a live sea turtle? These marine reptiles are graceful underwater, and usually ungainly on land.

There are seven recognized species of sea turtles, six of which (the hawksbill, green, loggerhead, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, and flatback turtles) are in the Family Cheloniidae, with only one (the leatherback) in the family Dermochelyidae.

Here you can see beautiful images of sea turtles, and learn facts about several sea turtle species.

Green sea turtles are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world.

Green turtles nest in tropical and subtropical regions - some of the biggest nesting areas are in Costa Rica and Australia.

The females lay about 100 eggs at a time. They will lay 1-7 clutches of eggs during the nesting season.

Although juvenile green turtles are carnivorous, feeding on snails and ctenophores (comb jellies), adults are herbivorous, and eat seaweeds and seagrass.

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Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Hatchling

Green turtles were named after the color of their fat, which is thought to be tinted by their diet. They are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world. This turtle is divided into two subspecies, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas mydas) and the black or Eastern Pacific green turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii.)

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A Loggerhead Spotted Off the Coast of Maine

Guess the Creature/ JGClipper
Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta).


Loggerheads have a large head and crushing jaws that they can use to eat mollusks.

Loggerhead turtles live from temperate to tropical waters, with a range extending throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Loggerhead turtles have the largest nesting range of any sea turtle. The largest nesting grounds are in southern Florida, Oman, Western Australia and Greece. The turtle pictured here ranged as far north as the coast of Maine, where it was seen from a whale watch in 2007.

Loggerheads are carnivores — they feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and jellyfish.

Loggerhead turtles are listed under the Endangered Species Act. They are threatened by pollution, coastal development, and bycatch in fishing gear.

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Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle / Becky A. Dayhuff, NOAA Photo Library
Hawksbill Turtles Were Prized for Their Beautiful Shell Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Secret Harbor, St. Thomas, USVI.

Becky A. Dayhuff/NOAA Photo Library

Hawksbill turtles occupy a large range that stretches throughout all but the world's coldest waters.

The hawksbill was prized for its shell, which was used in combs, brushes, fans and even furniture. In Japan, hawksbill shell is referred to as bekko. Now the hawksbill is listed under Appendix I in CITES, which means that trade for commercial purposes is banned.

Hawksbills are the largest vertebrate to feed on sponges, an interesting food choice, considering sponges contain a skeletal structure that may be made of silica (glass), as well as distasteful chemicals. In fact, humans have been poisoned by eating hawksbill meat.

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Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle / FL Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Photo Library
A Turtle Known for Its Beautiful Shell Hawksbill turtle, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary/NOAA Photo Library

Hawksbill turtles grow to lengths of 3.5 feet long and weights of up to 180 pounds. Hawksbill turtles were named for the shape of their beak, which looks similar to the beak of a raptor.

Hawksbills feed and nest in waters around the world. Major nesting grounds are in the Indian Ocean (e.g., Seychelles, Oman), Caribbean (e.g., Cuba, Mexico), Australia, and Indonesia.

Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Redlist. The list of threats to hawsbills is similar to that of the other 6 turtle species. They are threatened by harvesting (for their shell, meat and eggs), although trade bans seem to be helping the population. Other threats include habitat destruction, pollution, and bycatch in fishing gear.

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Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

Olive ridley turtles nest in droves on tropical beaches.

At nesting time, olive ridley turtles gather in large groups offshore of their nesting grounds, then come ashore in arribadas (which means "arrival" in Spanish), sometimes by the thousands. It is unknown what triggers these arribadas, but possible triggers are phermones, lunar cycles, or winds. Although many olive ridleys nest in arribadas (some beaches host 500,000 turtles), some olive ridleys nest singly, or may alternate between solitary and arribada nesting.

Olive ridleys will lay 2-3 clutches of about 110 eggs each. They nest every 1-2 years, and may nest during night or day. The nests of these small turtles are shallow, making the eggs especially vulnerable to predators.

In Ostional, Costa Rica, a limited legal harvest of eggs has been allowed since 1987 to satisfy demand for eggs and economic development, in a supposedly controlled manner. Eggs are allowed to be taken during the first 36 hours of an arribada, then volunteers monitor the remaining nests and maintain the nesting beach to assure continued nesting success. Some say this has decreased poaching and helped turtles, other say that there isn't enough reliable data to prove that theory.

Hatchlings emerge from eggs after 50-60 days and weigh .6 oz at when they hatch. Thousands of hatchlings may go to sea at once, which may have the effect of confusing predators so that more hatchlings survive.

Not much is known about the early live of olive ridleys, but it is believed that they mature in 11-16 years.

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle / USFWS
Turtle With Tracking Tag in Florida Loggerhead Sea Turtle at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida.

Ryan Hagerty/US Fish and Wildlife Service

Loggerhead sea turtles get their name from their very large head.

Loggerhead sea turtles are the most common turtle that nests in Florida. This image shows a loggerhead that has been outfitted with a tracking device at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida.

Loggerhead turtles can be 3.5 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds. They feed on crabs, mollusks and jellyfish.

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Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle / NOAA
Green Sea Turtle in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico.

Estuarine Research Reserve Collection/NOAA

Green sea turtles are large, with a carapace that is up to 3 feet long.

Despite their name, the green turtle's carapace can be many colors, including shades of black, gray, green, brown or yellow.

When young, green sea turtles are carnivores, but as adults they eat seaweeds and seagrasses, making them the only herbivorous sea turtle.

The green sea turtle's diet is thought to be responsible for its green-tinted fat, which is how the turtle got its name. They are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world. This turtle is divided into two subspecies, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas mydas) and the black or Eastern Pacific green turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii.)

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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle With Eggs / USFWS
Researchers Collect Eggs From the Smallest Sea Turtle Researchers Collect Eggs from a Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.

David Bowman/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is the world's smallest sea turtle.

The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle weighs about 100 pounds, on average. This sea turtle has a rounded, grayish-greenish carapace that is about 2 feet long. Its plastron (bottom shell) is yellowish in color.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles live from the Gulf of Mexico, along the coast of Florida and up the Atlantic coast through New England. There are also records of Kemp's ridley sea turtles near the Azores, Morocco and in the Mediterranean Sea.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles primarily eat crabs, but also eat fish, jellyfish and mollusks.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are endangered. Ninety-five percent of the Kemp's ridley turtles nest on beaches in Mexico. Egg harvesting was a major threat to the species until the 1960's, when egg harvesting became illegal. The population appears to be slowly recovering.

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Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) Picture

The leatherback is the largest sea turtle and can reach lengths over 6 feet and weights over 2,000 pounds. These animals are deep divers, and have the ability to dive to over 3,000 feet. Leatherback turtles nest on tropical beaches, but can migrate as far north as Canada during the rest of the year. This turtle’s shell consists of a single piece with 5 ridges, and is distinctive from other turtles who have plated shells.

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A Young Leatherback Heads to Sea

Leatherback Turtle Hatchling / Jimmy G, Flickr
Leatherback turtle hatchling in Costa Rica.

Jimmy G/Flickr

Here is a young leatherback turtle making its way to sea.

Primary nesting areas for the leatherback are in northern South America and West Africa. In the U.S., small numbers of leatherbacks nest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and southern Florida.

Females dig a nest onshore, then lay 80-100 eggs. The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest. Higher temperatures produce females and lower temperatures produce males. Temperatures around 85 degrees produce a mix of both.

It takes about 2 months for the young turtles to hatch, at which time they are 2-3 inches long and weigh less than 2 ounces. The hatchlings head to the sea, where males will remain for life. Females will return to the same nesting beach where they hatched at around 6-10 years of age to lay their own eggs.

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Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill turtles were named for the shape of their beak, which looks similar to the beak of a raptor. These turtles have a beautiful tortoiseshell pattern on their carapace, and were hunted nearly to extinction for their shells.

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead sea turtles are a reddish-brown turtle that were named for their very large head. They are the most common turtle nesting in Florida.

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Sea Turtle Recovered From Oil Spill

This turtle was one sea turtle found stranded on Louisiana's coast and transported to Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge near St. Petersburg, Florida.

During the months of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, many sea turtles were collected and monitored for oil effects.

The effects of oil on sea turtles can include skin and eye problems, respiratory issues and effects on overall immune responses.

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Turtle Excluder Device (TED)

A primary threat to sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico is incidental capture in fishing gear (turtles are bycatch).

Shrimp trawls can be a major problem, but the catch of turtles can be prevented with a turtle excluder device (TED), which was required by law in the U.S. starting in 1987.

Here you can see a loggerhead turtle escaping via a TED.