Celebrate World Sea Turtle Day with six surprising facts about sea turtles!
- Sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field as a compass. This adaptation helps them return to the exact spot where they were born to lay eggs after spending years migrating thousands of miles at sea.
- They are one of the few animals that eat jellyfish. Leatherback turtles can consume twice their own body weight in jellies and other soft-bodied animals per day. They have sharp points on their jaws to pierce jellies and spines in their throat to prevent jellies from slipping out before they can swallow them! Plastic pollution in the ocean is especially dangerous for leatherback turtles, who often confuse plastic bags for their favorite food.
- Sea turtles survived the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs. 65 million years ago, an asteroid crashed into Earth, changing the planet’s climate and wiping out most life on Earth. Sea turtles, however, have many adaptations that helped them survive what other species couldn’t. They have a slow metabolism, requiring very little energy, so they can get by when resources are scarce. They can hibernate when it’s too cold, or burrow into the sand when it’s too hot. Turtles are tough—it’s no wonder they’ve been around for over 120 million years!
- Only one in a thousand turtle hatchlings will make it to adulthood. It’s a treacherous journey from the nest to the water—birds, dogs, racoons and fish all prey on turtle hatchlings, and human disturbances make the voyage even more dangerous. Baby turtles use the natural light horizon over the ocean to find the water, and unnatural light from buildings, cars, and fires leads turtles in the wrong direction.
- Temperature determines the sex of baby turtles. The sex of turtle hatchlings depends on the temperature of the environment surrounding the eggs. More female hatchlings are born in warmer temperatures, while males are born in cooler temperatures. Sand that is too hot can even prevent the eggs from hatching at all. Increased sand temperatures due to climate change will affect sea turtle populations by changing natural sex ratios and decreasing hatch rates.
- Sea turtles need our help. Six out of the seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered thanks to entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, habitat loss, climate change, and demand for their eggs, meat and shells. Here are some easy ways to help sea turtles:
- Never buy turtleshell products.
- Reduce your use of plastic.
- Reduce your carbon footprint by cutting back on meat.
- Only buy sustainable, turtle-friendly seafood.
- Protect sea turtles during nesting season.
- Contact your government representatives to tell them to protect the Endangered Species Act.
- Support sea turtle conservation organizations like Sea Turtle Conservancy.
The sea turtles will thank you!