Last week I told you about meeting Gigi, a blind loggerhead sea turtle that recently found a new home at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC). If you missed her story, you can read it here.
Since meeting Gigi and her human friends, I’ve done a little research about loggerheads. Here are ten things I learned.
- Loggerheads (Genus: Caretta, Species: caretta) are the most abundant marine turtles in the US waters. However, according to National Geographic, they’ve been considered a threatened species since 1978. Their decline in population is due to pollution, fishing, shrimp trawling and development in their nesting areas.
- Loggerheads have a slightly heart-shaped reddish brown shell (carapace) with five or more scales (scutes). Their bottom shell (plastron) is yellow.
- An adult male loggerhead can measure up to 3½ feet long and weigh 375 pounds according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. However they’ve been known to weigh as much as 1000 pounds. Gigi weighs just a little less than 200.
- Loggerheads have massive heads to support the powerful jaws they use to crack the shells of crustaceans. (The better to eat them with.) According to the National Wildlife Federation, babies start out nibbling on small sea creatures found in sargassum mats. As they mature, they move on to mollusks, jelly fish and other fish. To get to a video of a loggerhead chasing a lobster, click here.
- Loggerheads have short thick front flippers with claws. The rear flippers can have two or three claws. Gigi uses hers along the pool edge to orient herself and push off.
- Loggerheads don’t mate until they’re ten or twelve, and females don’t fully mature until they’re 35, which is the age Gigi’s rescuers estimate her to be.
- Loggerheads can migrate thousands of miles to return to their place of birth for nesting.
- In the United States, Loggerheads nest every two or three years along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida and as far as Alabama and Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico. They also nest in Japan and the Indian Ocean.
- Loggerheads lay an average of four clutches of 100-120 ping-pong-ball-sized eggs a couple of weeks apart. Incubation time is about 60 days.
- The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the turtles. When the sand is cool, more males are hatched. The warmer the sand, the more females are produced. As one of the volunteers quipped, “Boys are cool and girls are hot.” (Only he paused and let us supply that last adjective.)
One thing gives me hope for loggerheads. They have lots of human friends working to keep them safe. At National Geographic, you can watch a video of volunteers moving eggs from Gulf Shores, Alabama, during the oil spill crisis to climate-controlled storage at NASA Kennedy Space Center. After they hatched, they were released at Cape Canaveral. Lucky little turtles.
Next time, I’ll wrap up with more news about Gigi and the NBSTCC.
How many living things you have made, O Lord!
You have exhibited great skill in making all of them;
the earth is full of the living things you have made.
25 Over here is the deep, wide sea,
which teems with innumerable swimming creatures,
living things both small and large.