World Sea Turtle Day 2017

You guys! Did you know it was World Sea Turtle Day today?!

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Source: giphy.com

These reptiles have roamed the Earth for millions of years, so I guess it’s only fitting that they get their own special day. World Sea Turtle Day is meant to bring attention to turtles and tortoises, and encourage you to learn more about these incredible creatures. Below are some fun facts and a video to get you started, but be sure to check out the links if you want to learn more!

In the United States, you can find six different species of  sea turtles: Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Olive ridley, and the Kemp’s ridley.

In the summertime, pregnant female sea turtles will return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their eggs. These soon-to-be moms will swim ashore through crashing waves, scoot up above the high water mark, and then begin the arduous task of digging a nest with their back flippers. This process, including laying her eggs, will take between one and three hours, after which the mother turtle, exhausted, heads back to the ocean.

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Nesting Loggerhead at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC. (Source: nps.gov)

Each turtle nest contains around 100 eggs which hatch after about 60 days in the sand. Fun fact: the temperature of the sand actually determines the gender of the turtle hatchlings! Cooler sand produces more males and warmer sand produces more females. Once the babies hatch (check out a neat NPS video here), they’ll make their way to the ocean using the reflection of the moon and stars on the water.

Sidenote: have you ever wondered how baby turtles, and adult turtles for that matter, navigate the large expanses of the open ocean and eventually find their way back to their nesting beaches? This amazing ability occurs thanks to turtles’ ability to navigate using magnetism, a phenomenon called magnetoreception. Essentially, turtles are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field and use it as a source of navigational information as they make their transoceanic migrations. You can read more here. Pretty cool, huh?!

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General sea turtle migratory route. (Source: Sea Turtle Conservancy)

Most turtle nests occur from North Carolina to Texas, but you can see worldwide nesting sites on this map. As we all head off to the beach this summer, it’s important to remember that it’s turtle nesting season. You can make a difference for sea turtles by following these recommendations from recreation.gov:

  1. If you see a turtle nest, don’t touch it – these nests are protected by federal and state laws!
  2. Turn off lights at night near nesting beaches. This artificial light may disorient the turtle hatchlings and cause them to go the wrong direction away from the ocean after hatching.
  3. When you leave the beach, fill in any holes you might have made, knock down any sand castles, and remove everything you brought with you. This helps those pregnant mama turtles crawl above the high water mark, an already difficult task for an animal designed to swim, without any more obstacles in her way.
  4. Don’t leave any litter on the beach – it’s just a wind gust away from getting blown into the ocean and threatening marine life. In particular, turtles can mistake plastic bags for food and get tangled in kite strings, six-pack rings, and fishing lines.

Turtles are pretty incredible creatures and it’s up to us to help ensure their survival. Check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy to learn more about these reptiles, how you help their survival, and how you can get involved.

And to close, enjoy the video below with some more fun facts about turtles!

 

Happy World Sea Turtle Day!!

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