Loggerhead Sea Turtles

(Caretta caretta)


A loggerhead sea turtle is a primarily carnivorous reptile. They get their names from their exceptionally large heads. They have a heart shaped reddish/brown shell, large nonoverlapping scales, and really strong jaws. These sea turtls munch on jellyfish, conchs, crabs, and fish. They will also eat seaweed. Their strong jaws allow them to easily crunch on the shells. These turtles, on average, weight about 250 pounds and are 2.5 to 3.5 feet in length. (The picture to the right shows an average loggerhead compared to a 6ft man!) They are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle! Their average life span is approximately 50 years, although that is being shortened by many factors.


Loggerhead sea turtles occupy almost all of the oceans, leaving out the most frigid. These turtles prefer coasta waters, but travel hundreds of miles out to sea as well.

Map: www.picstopin.com

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Loggerhead sea turtles are very important to their ecosystem. They provide food for other marine life and help recycle nutrients.

The turtles carry around barnacles, algae, and epibionts which provide food for fish and shrimp. Since the sea turtles have outstretched limbs and a raised head, they expose their bodies. This allows fish and shrimp to eat the barnacles, algae, and epibionts off of the turtle's body.

Female loggerhead sea turtles return to the beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. Unfortunately, these sea turtle eggs are a food source for many small animals including sea gulls, raccoons, and possums,

Since loggerheads break up shells while feeding, they allow these shells to disintegrate at a faster pace. This quickens the nutrient recycling in the benthic (very bottom) layer of the ocean.

Food web picture: www.loggerhead-turtles.weebly.com

Loggerhead sea turtles are in the 3rd trophic level.

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Sadly, loggerhead sea turtles are threatened/endangered reptiles. They have been on the threatened species list since July 28th, 1978. The population of Loggerheads has been declining in Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, Turkey, the Bahamas, Cuba, Greece, Japan, Panama, southeast Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

This is due to many factors:

  • coastal development
  • pollution
  • climate change
  • predation of nests
  • human disturbances
  • incidental capture
  • habitat degradation

The coastal development and human disturbances go together. Because of the development near the nesting areas, the newly hatched loggerheads confuse city lights with the moon, therefore getting off track and never making it to the ocean.

Pollution is a another major factor, also caused by humans. Sea turtles mistake trash in the ocean for food and often choke to death after attempting to eat it.

The predation of nests is a naturally occuring factor. As stated before, loggerhead sea turtle eggs provide food for many small animals on beaches.

Incidental capture occurs most during longline fishing and bycatch. Before the introduction of TEDs, approximately 50,000 loggerhead sea turtles were killed in shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean.

Habitat degradation is slowly becoming more of an issue. This is due to the loss of suitable nesting beaches as well as the introduction of exotic predators, causing the ecosystem to go out of it's normal routine.

In the United States, loggerheads are listed as threatened, or likely to become endangered and in danger of extinction within the near future.

Internationally, loggerheads are listed as endangered, which means they are facing a high risk of extinction within the near future.

Either way, Loggerhead Sea Turtles are not going to be around for much longer if nothing is done to prevent their extinction.


Humans are part of the cause of loggerhead sea turtle endangerment, so can they help to keep the loggerhead population steady?


There have been many Sea Turtle Protection Programs put into place recently. Many of these programs require volunteers to walk along the beach looking for sea turtle nests, tape the nesting areas off once they find one, as well as help direct the newly hatched sea turtles to the ocean.

Humans can also help by preventing the pollution of the oceans. Make sure when you go to the beach that no trash gets left in the water. There are also beach clean-ups that require a lot of volunteer participation in order to prevent any marine animals from choking on plastic or trash left behind.

Loggerhead Turtle Nesting Area picture: www.nerrs.noaa.gov

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Florida Surfer Rescues Drowning Loggerhead Sea Turtle
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The answers are below.

1. C) predominantly carnivores

2. B) in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans

3. B) largest

4. B) barnacles, algae, and epibionts

5. C) 3rd