Welcome back to Nature Foundation’s Sea Turtle Series for The KID’S Herald! This week, we will be covering the last two species of sea turtles that can be found on St. Maarten – Leatherbacks and Loggerheads.
These two species are much more difficult to spot in the waters surrounding our island than Green and Hawksbill Sea Turtles, which we talked about last time. However, we do normally see leatherback sea turtles coming ashore to nest each year on St. Maarten. If we are lucky sometimes, we even spot the babies emerging from the nest! Here are some fun facts about both species:
Leatherback Sea Turtles
These are the largest of all the sea turtle species and are very unique in several ways! Leatherbacks get their name from their unique carapace (shell). Instead of having a hard shell like other species, they are covered by a layer of flexible/leathery skin!
- They can grow up to 2-3 metres long (6-9 feet) and weigh up to 900kg (2000lbs), but they only live for about 45 years.
- Due to their large size, flexible shell and the lack of a ridged breast bone, they can dive up to 1,200metres/4,000feet in search of their favourite food, jellyfish!
- While they are very different from the other species of sea turtles, they haven’t changed in a long time. Leatherbacks have existed in their current form since the time of the dinosaurs!
- Females come ashore up to 10 times in one season to nest and can lay up to 100 eggs on each visit.
- The eggs take about 60 days to hatch and only 6% will survive their first year.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
This species gets its name from its large and thin head and neck which resembles a log. While they are the most common species in the waters of the United States, Loggerhead Sea Turtles are very rare to spot in St. Maarten.
- Loggerheads are very important to the ecosystem for several reasons, including that they can give shelter to over 100 different species of creatures (like crabs and barnacles) that can be found living on their shells.
- On average, these sea turtles grow to be 1 metre (3 feet) long and weigh about 110kg (250lbs), but Loggerheads that weigh over 450kg (1000lbs) have been found!
- The primary threat to this species currently is ending up as bycatch (accidental victim) of commercial fisheries.
- These sea turtles use their strong jaws to crush conch and crabs.
- Females can lay up to 16kg (35lbs) of eggs each year, with large nests of up to 130 eggs in each one!
Now that you have learned all about the sea turtles of St. Maarten and how you can help protect them, it is time for a puzzle: See below!
We will see you next time with a new topic about St. Maarten’s Natural Environment!
A Loggerhead Sea Turtle in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, St. Maarten (photo credit: Leslie Hickerson).