Sea Turtles


This juvenile Kemp’s Ridley had been snagged by a fishing line.Photo taken by the HHI Turtle Protection Program Team, summer 2015.

Sea turtles have graced the oceans since the dinosaurs, but only seven species remain in the world today, and they too, face extinction. Five of these can be found in the waters off South Carolina, the Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley, although it is the Loggerhead most frequently seen, and the turtle accounting for 99% of the nests.

Sea turtles are distinguished from land turtles by their flippers. Even the webbed feet if freshwater turtles end in distinct toes. Adult Loggerheads average 3 feet in length and 500 pounds in weight. Although they spend their lives in the ocean, sea turtles breathe air through lings, not gills, and must surface to breathe. An active turtle will surface every 3 to 5 minutes, but when asleep, the metabolism slows to allow them to remain underwater for up to 3 hours.

Although Loggerheads account for 99% of the nests on Hilton Head Island, there have been a handful of Leatherback nests over the years. If you like, you can read the full post about a Leatherback nest inventory I attended during the summer of 2015. I write more specifically about Leatherbacks and nest inventories, but included the photos below.

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