Sea Turtles in Pensacola
One of the most exciting things you can witness on the Gulf Coast is a nest of baby sea turtles hatching. Sea turtles often take to the shores of Pensacola to lay their eggs during nesting season, which runs from May through the end of October. Here are some interesting facts about the sea turtles that make Pensacola their home.
Sea turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meat. These turtles can grow between 2 to 7 feet long and weigh anywhere between 70 to 2,000 pounds. Their average lifespan is still a mystery.
Seven species of sea turtles roam the Earth’s waters: green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, and flatback. The first six species listed are found in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic. The last species, flatback, is only found in the waters around Australia.
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of the species and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. It is the only species of sea turtle that doesn’t have a bony shell. Instead, its carapace is somewhat flexible and feels almost rubbery when touched. Other sea turtles have shells made out of thick plates called scutes.
Did you know that sea turtles have to make extremely long migrations between their feeding and breeding areas? The leatherback sea turtle actually travels and impressive 3,700 miles each way. Sea turtles mate out at sea, then the mothers come ashore to lay their eggs.
When the female sea turtles return to the beach, they dig a hole in the sand before laying their clutch of eggs. Leatherback sea turtles can lay up to 100 eggs! After they’re done depositing their eggs, they cover up the hole and return to the sea.
After about two months, the eggs finally hatch, and the baby turtles make their way to the water under cover of darkness. This is often a pretty brutal ordeal, as crabs, seabirds, and other predators prey on the little turtles.
Coastal development is another threat to these young sea turtles, as they use that natural light at the horizon to guide them to the ocean. Now, lights from homes, hotels, and other buildings can confuse them, leading them to head the wrong way.
Unfortunately, six out of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened, endangered, or critically endangered, mostly due to human impact in the form of pollution, bycatch in fishing nets, hunting, and climate change.
- The temperature of the sand determines the outcome of the hatchling’s sex.
- Leatherback sea turtles were around when Tyrannosaurus rex was alive!
- Sea turtles can’t pull their head and limbs inside their shells like other turtles can.
- More female sea turtles are born in warmer temperatures.
- It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive to be an adult. However, adult females can lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime, so a few of the babies can survive to maintain the species.
- Pensacola’s beaches are home to four of the sea turtle species: green, leatherback, loggerhead, and Kemp’s ridley.
If you’re interested in Pensacola’s sea creatures, why not come on a Dolphin Tour with Rock Bottom Charters? Enjoy up-close encounters with dolphins and other marine life, as well as local historical sights along the Gulf Coast.
Image From Wildlifeppl at en.wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons