How Do Sea Turtles Protect Themselves?

Save

Natural Armor

  • How do sea turtles protect themselves? The most obvious answer to this question is prominently displayed upon their backs. The hard, bony external shell, called a carapace, not only indicates the relative age and species of sea turtles; it also functions as a natural suit of armor.

    Unlike land turtles, however, sea turtles cannot retract their heads and limbs under their shells. Their bodies are streamlined for endurance and speed in the water, which comes in handy when adult sea turtles are confronted by their primary predators: large sharks and killer whales. Ironically, the characteristics that make them powerful swimmers (large paddle-like foreflippers and smaller, rudder-like hind flippers) also make sea turtles clumsy and virtually powerless on land.

    In addition to their shells, sea turtles are armed with claws on each foreflipper, large upper eyelids to protect their eyes, and acute senses of sight and smell under water. Neither sea turtles nor land turtles have teeth, but they have well-built jaws that vary in shape according to species and diet (herbivore, carnivore or omnivore).

A Rough Start

  • By the time sea turtles reach maturity, the majority of the battle has been won. The period between nesting and the first year of life is the most treacherous. Dogs, raccoons, crabs, birds and some fish prey on turtle eggs and hatchlings. In fact, only one of every 1,000 hatchlings survives predators. Research indicates that there are certain instinctive behaviors that safeguard the lucky few.

    Following a two month incubation period, hatchlings emerge from their nests after nightfall, reducing the risk of detection by predators. They head frantically toward the shore and swim for 24 to 48 hours to reach deeper, safer water. Hatchlings have been observed diving straight down to take cover when birds appear overhead. The ones that survive the journey are believed to make their home among clusters of seaweed for camouflage and food supply as they grow and adjust to sea life.

The Human Element

  • Sadly, the most serious threat to the sea turtle population is one against which they have no recourse: human carelessness. Increasing beachfront development disrupts the natural nesting patterns of female sea turtles. Trash on the shoreline and in the water is often swallowed by sea turtles, resulting in strangulation and death. Injuries resulting from collisions with watercraft propellers are common, and thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught and drowned in fishing nets each year. Sea turtles are endangered because of their inability to protect themselves from the destructive influences of humankind.

Promoted By Zergnet

Comments

Resources

You May Also Like

  • How Do Sea Otters Protect Themselves?

    Sea otters are endangered, carnivorous sea mammals that live off the coasts in the northern Pacific ocean, from California to Alaska, the...

  • Why Is the Leatherback Sea Turtle Endangered?

    The leatherback sea turtle can grow to 6.5 feet long and weigh up to 1,400 pounds, making it the largest of the...

  • What Do River Otters Eat?

    The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mustelid -- a member of the weasel family -- native to a...

  • How Turtles Grow & Live

    Like all reptiles, turtles shed their skin as they grow, but their protective shell makes their growth a more subtle process. Their...

  • What Are Sea Turtles' Enemies?

    Sea turtles have lived on our planet for more than 110 million years, but today only seven species remain. They're divided up...

  • How Do Animals in the Ocean Protect Themselves?

    The ocean covers 72 percent of the Earth's surface and contains most of its biomass, including thousands of life-form species, according to...

  • How Do Turtles Sleep?

    Turtles sleep, but their sleep is different than the sleep humans experience. It is more like a resting state. Many turtles, tortoises...

  • How to Save the Sea Turtles

    Protecting endangered sea turtle nests is the first step to help save this turtle species. Get information to help save endangered sea...

Related Searches

Check It Out

How to Build and Grow a Salad Garden On Your Balcony

M
Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!