Explore and Discover

Sea Turtles

Welcome to the University of Miami’s Sea Turtle site! Here you will find information about sea turtles, why it is important to protect them, how you can help, as well as fun sea turtle themed games and activities.

There are several different species of sea turtles that live in the world’s oceans: flatback (Natator depressus), green (Chelonia mydas), eastern Pacific green/black (Chelonia mydas agassizii), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea). Though it is difficult to estimate the overall population of turtles, since they are highly migratory and rarely come to shore, many sea turtle populations are in decline. All species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Threats to turtles include habitat loss, natural predators, and human activity.

Only the green turtle, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and the occasional olive ridley are found in the Atlantic Ocean. Loggerheads are the most common turtle in U.S. waters with approximately 80% of the Atlantic loggerhead population nesting on, or originating from Florida’s beaches. Female sea turtles come on shore only to lay eggs. The females are known to have strong fidelity to their nesting beaches, and it is hypothesized that they will return to nest on the same beach where they hatched. Upon hatching and emerging from their nests, hatchling sea turtles will enter the water, orienting into the waves and swimming in a “frenzy-like” state to get off shore and away from natural predators. Little is known about juvenile sea turtles, where they go once in the ocean, and how long they remain in their oceanic stage.

At any age, sea turtles are highly migratory animals capable of swimming thousands of miles within a season. While it is easy for researchers to study sea turtles when they are on land during the nesting season, this information is limited to adult females and hatchlings. Scientists do not yet know how long a sea turtle may live, but it is estimated to be at least 50–80 years, a very large portion of which time is spent entirely at sea.

Several methods are used to understand where sea turtles go and what they do while in their foraging grounds or migrating long distances, including satellite, radio and acoustic telemetry. Scientists attach a tracking device, or tag, to the turtle’s carapace, which allows them to follow the turtles either by boat or by satellite. The data collected provides valuable information on sea turtle habitat use, migration patterns, and regions where turtles may have a greater probability of encountering human hazards, such as fisheries.

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science campus

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