The Loggerhead Sea Turtle
This marine turtle species is the largest specimen of all the marine turtles. Unlike most marine turtles, its shell is softer than most. Unlike some other turtles and tortoises, its carapace is short, which makes it impossible to retract its head and its limbs into its shell, for protection. While tortoises have feet, the Loggerhead Sea turtle has flippers as the front and hind legs at the back.
There aren't many differences between males and females. The carapace on the male's back is wider. Its tail is larger and the plastron (armored stomach) is shorter. The males also have longer claws and a larger head.
This reptile owes its name to the large size of its head. The back of the head is usually spotted brown while the sides and underneath is yellow-orange. The carapace is reddish-brown while the plastron is light yellow. The carapace is covered with scutes (5 on the top from the front to back, 5 on each side and 11 or 12 marginal scutes on the rim).
The natural habitat of this marine creature is enormous as it lives in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Since cold waters affect their metabolism, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle cannot survive in Northern waters such as the Arctic Ocean.
This turtle species prefers waters warmer than 15 degrees Celsius ((59 degrees Fahrenheit) since lethargy is induced at temperatures ranging between 13-15 degrees Celsius (55-59 degrees Fahrenheit). In fact, this reptile can be cold-stunned once they fall at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) or colder. As warmer temperatures increase their metabolism, colder ones slow it down drastically, which affects the heart rate, the digestive system, etc.
Among the largest nesting areas are: Florida, Oman and Western Australia. Females tend to go back to the beach where they hatch as a nesting area. Mating will occur during their migration, halfway between the feeding ground and nesting ground. The female's body will secrete cloacal pheromones to indicate that they are ready to copulate.
The male will start nuzzling the female, does some biting and movements with the head and flippers as he approaches the female. He will then mount her, which will usually be unsuccessful. If other males are interested in the same female, she may let them fight over her. As the male successfully mounts her after winning against opponents, other males will often bite him. Some bites can be down to the bone and take weeks to heal properly.
The female can store the sperm of several males until ovulation occurs. The sperm of up to 5 males can father a clutch of eggs. The mating season lasts up to 6 weeks. A female will lay approximately 3 to 4 clutches of 110 eggs, and then it will not reproduce until 2 or 3 years later.
This reptile is diurnal, which means it is hunting during the day. It is omnivorous as it feeds on animals and plants. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle will mostly feed on invertebrates such as: gastropods, bivalves and decapods. Other food items include: sponges, corals, sea pens, polychaete worms, sea anemones, jellyfish, cephalopods, barnacles, brachiopods, isopods, insects, bryozoans, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, starfish, fish, wrasses, floating mollusks, hatchling turtles, algae, floating egg clusters, squid, flying fish and vascular plants.
Among predators, this reptile faces: the red fox (in Australia), raccoons, flesh flies opossums, rats, skunks, armadillos, feral dogs, snakes, gulls, crabs, bears, honey badgers, crows, ants, beetles, birds, toads, lizards, parrotfish, moray eel, sharks and humans.
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is often the prey to a variety of parasites and diseases, some even attacking the heart and brain of the poor victim.
Since 1978, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle has been added to the endangered list and protected by laws of various countries. Pollution, human encroachment, the harvesting of turtle eggs by humans and fisheries have been responsible for the depletion of the population. Other threats are: artificial lighting (which confuses hatchlings and leads them away from the ocean), tall buildings (which cool down temperatures, causing an increase of male population) and global warming (which increases female populations). An increase of a gender over the other causes an important imbalance, which can affect the survival of this species.
Most fisheries and shrimp trawlers have adopted a TED (Turtle Excluder Device) on their nets and shrimp trawls to decrease the chances of fatalities among sea turtles. Between the harvesting of eggs as culinary delicacies in eastern Australia in 1970, 95% of the turtle clutches of eggs have been destroyed. Experts predict that it will take until 2020 for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle population to recover from that loss.
This marine creature is known as one of the best divers as it can dive for periods between 15 and 30 minutes and can stay submerged for up to 4 hours. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle has lachrymal glands that excrete excess of salt water, resembling crying. This natural process is important to ensure the osmosis balance.
The life expectancy of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle in the wilderness ranges between 47 and 67 years.
Let's help the Loggerhead Sea Turtle population get out of the endangered species list by adopting the appropriate measures and following the protective laws that are meant for their protection.
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