Our oceans are vastly unexplored and we need to protect them for many reasons.
How Old Are Turtles
Turtles predate the dinosaurs and even managed to survive the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Turtles date back to 260 million years ago. The Archelon turtle lived at the time of the dinosaurs. It was extremely large, sixteen feet in length, and weighed 4900 pounds.
The ancestor of all turtles and tortoises was the Eunotsaurus found in the Karoo Sea, an ancient island sea of South Africa. This was the first fossil resembling a turtle found in 260 million-year-old rocks found in the 1890s, then in China, a 220 million-year-old fossil named Odontochelys was found. Later, in 2015, a 240 million-year-old fossil was found in Germany named Pappochelys.
How Did The Turtle Get Its Shell
There is an old fable of the wedding of Zeus where all the animals were invited but the Turtle was a no show and very late. Hermes, son of Zeus was so enraged, that he told the turtle he would forever carry his house with him. In truth, a turtle got his shell from the bony plates that were embedded in his skin called osteoderms, found in crocodilians and reptiles. They would eventually fuse into the underlying bones of the turtle to form the shell integrated into the skeleton. The shell is the armor surrounding the turtle. The top shell is called the carapace and the bottom shell is called plastron.
Seven Spies Of Turtles
There are seven spies of turtles:
- 1. Leatherback, Dermochelys cariaccea, 45-50 year life span
- 2. Green Turtle, Chelonia Mydas, 60-70 years life span
- 3. Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata100-135 life span
- 4. Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta, 70-80 year life span
- 5. Olive Ridley Turtle, Lepidochelys,olivaccea, 50 years life span
- 6. Kemp's Ridley, Lepidochelys, kempi, 30-50 years life span
- 7. Flatback Turtle, Natator depressa, 100 years life span
Benefits Of Turtles
Turtles are our friends, policing our oceans, beaches, and coral reefs.
Turtles are incredibly effective in keeping our beaches safe for humans—leathernecks, in particular, as they love jellyfish and consume many of them. Unfortunately, plastic bags appear as jellyfish in the water, and the leatherneck will die eating them. A leatherneck turtle can travel 10,000 miles annually.
The Hawksbill turtle lives on coral reefs eating up to 1200 pounds of sponges per year, keeping the reef healthy.
Even a turtle's nest and broken shells give nutrients to the sand on the beaches allowing the dunes to grow vegetation root systems vital to hold sand in place to prevent erosion.
Some 90% of turtle nestings in the United States occur in Florida, usually from March to October. The mother turtle often will pick a beach about 5-35 miles from her hatching. She will come to the beach at nighttime at high tide. Picking out her nest, she digs a well to deposit her eggs, called a "clutch."
The number of eggs varies, with the Flatback turtle depositing about fifty eggs, and the Hawksbill turtle will deposit up to 200 eggs. The hatching are "phototactic" and head for the moon's light reflecting off the water. This is why it's essential not to have lights around the beach during nesting. The hatching can be confused and head to civilization instead of the ocean.
World Turtle Day
Each year, May 23rd is World Turtle Day, set aside for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtles. It was first observed in 2002.
There are several reasons attributed to the decline of turtles are:
- Loss of habitat
- poaching and illegal collecting
- fishing nets
- climate change
To help protect our oceans, we can volunteer with local organizations to participate in cleaning our beaches.Also, articipate in organized turtle nesting walks, and DO NOT purchase products from turtle parts such as ashtrays, guitar pics, or jewelry.
For further information, visit www.saveturtles.org or turtlerescue.org.