Saving the Sea Turtles
By: Caleb Sperry and Nick Jankowski
Chelonia mydas or the Green Sea Turtle is currently an endangered species around the world and they have been listed as endangered since November 10, 1978. They are endangered for numerous reasons; the most common being:
- Over harvesting of eggs.
- Destruction of nesting sites.
- Over hunting of adults.
- Frequently being caught in fishing gear.
- Climate change and warming of the oceans.
- Destruction of habitat due to coastal development.
- Water pollution.
On average, these turtles have a lifespan of about anywhere from 80-100 years old. However, it may take them anywhere from 20-50 years to reach sexual maturity. Adult Green Sea Turtles also have a serrated jaw that helps them eat their primary food source which consists of sea grasses and algae. Young see turtles however, are omnivores and will eat aquatic insects, worms, jellyfish, and young crustaceans as well as sea grasses and algae. Some predators this animal faces are seagulls, crabs, and raccoons as newborns but their only predators as adults are large sharks since only they have jaws powerful enough to break a turtle's hard shell. Humans however, are their greatest predator.
Courtship rituals for turtles consist of the male gently biting a female's flippers or head. When a female goes to lay her eggs, she returns to the beach of which she was born. To make a nest, the female finds a dry patch of sand and digs a small pit using her flippers. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings orient themselves toward the moon and crawl out to sea. They sleep on and off during the day and will either float on the surface or wedge themselves under rocks to do so. They are also known to clean themselves by rubbing up against sea sponges. When mating season arrives, these turtles are known to travel hundreds off miles to the nesting grounds they were born in.
What Can YOU Do to Help Prevent Extinction?
We as humans can help reduce the risk of Green Sea Turtle endangerment and extinction in many ways such as:
Turning off lights near the beaches at night. Sea turtle hatchlings use the moonlight to guide them to the ocean and other bright lights nearby can be misleading
Putting out beach campfires at night before you leave.
Cleaning up trash on the beach so the sea turtles do not accidentally mistake it for food.
Paying attention when boating so you do not accidentally hit sea turtles.
Leaving tracks and nests left by turtles on beaches undisturbed so that researchers can mark them for protection
Avoiding trampling vegetation that grows on beaches. The vegetation helps prevent erosion and a decrease in beach vegetation leads to an increase in beach erosion. This in turn makes it harder for sea turtles to lay their eggs.
Avoiding sea grass beds since sea turtles like to hang around them.
Ecological effects of the extinction
Since Green Sea Turtles are one of the few animals to eat sea grass and graze in it, there has been a decline in sea grass beds which act as breeding or developmental grounds for many other animals. This in turn causes a decline of other marine animals that humans harvest for food. They also help replenish nutrients on sandy dunes when they lay their eggs. But since they are endangered, there is a lack of nutrients in the dunes for vegetation to grow.
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