Imagine you are SCUBA diving on the coast of Hawaii. You are exploring the floor of the ocean. You step on a rock. It starts to move. You think you imagined that the rock moved. You become frightened and wonder what is under your feet. Suddenly, the rock starts swimming away. You figure out that it is a sea turtle. When you come out of the water, you ask someone if they know of any websites on sea turtles. They suggested this one.
A hawksbill turtle is a small to a medium sized turtle. Hawksbill turtles can grow in length up to 30 to 36 inches. They can weigh from 100-200 pounds. The biggest sea turtle is the leatherback turtle. It can reach 6 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds.
A hawksbill’s shell is usually the color brown, with dark and light spots and streaks. The pattern on a hawksbill shell is not always the same on each turtle. The brown spots on the turtle’s shell are usually in blotches or spots. The scales on a hawksbill shell overlap each other when they are young. When hawksbill turtles become older, they no longer overlap each other.
Hawksbill turtles have a beak shaped head. Their head is what gave the hawksbill turtle its name. The beak helps the turtle catch its prey that is found in small cracks and crannies of the ocean.
Hawksbill sea turtles are omnivores. That means they eat both meat and plants. Hawksbills eat sponges, jellyfish, sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, tunicates, shrimps, and squids. Hawksbill turtles will also feed on dead marine animals, grasses, other plants from the bottom of the ocean, and grass beds at different parts of the ocean.
Hawksbill turtles are one of the only turtles that eat sponges. Hawksbill turtles sometimes will eat toxic sponges. The hawksbill is not poisoned, but it stores the toxin in its flesh. When the flesh of the sea turtle is eaten, the predator that ate it could die from food poisoning.
Reproduction and life of a sea turtle
Hawksbill hatchlings are usually 1 to 2 inches long. That is about as big as a crayon. When hawksbills are hatchlings, they are a dark to light brown color. Hawksbill turtles reach to about 10 inches long, and then start to travel to coastal waters from their nest. As the turtles grow, they move into deeper and deeper waters.
A mother sea turtle does not care for her hatchlings. She leaves them in the nest to go into the world by themselves. This is not a good thing because the unprotected eggs could be stolen by humans or may become eaten by predators.
The hawksbill turtle’s nesting season is from May to October. Hawksbills that nest on the islands of the eastern Caribbean lay eggs in about five different nests for each season. Females nest in small deserted beaches. During this time, they will lay about 130 eggs. Females only nest for about 2 to 3 years.
Humans have been the greatest threat to sea turtles. Humans have killed many hawksbills mainly for their highly priced tortoise shell. Hawksbill turtles almost became extinct because of people killing hawksbill turtles for their shells. To help this problem, the United States has put hawksbill turtles on the endangered species list. In addition, Hawaii is protecting hawksbill sea turtles under state law.
Another cause for the hawksbill population to decline are new building structures that are destroying hawksbill nesting areas. Other things that decrease the population are beach development, shoreline and dune erosion, vehicle traffic on shore, fishing, and reef damaging activities. The greatest predators to sea turtles, other than humans, are sharks.
How we can help sea turtles
There are many different ways we can help sea turtles.
Artificial lights could interrupt hatchlings’ journey to the sea. Hatchling sea turtles making their journey at night are very attracted to light along the beach. The sea turtles will move toward the light and away from their nesting area. Hatchlings fail to make their way to the sea and could be attacked by predators, become exhausted, or hit by a car from a nearby parking lot. To prevent this problem always remember to turn off your lights on the beach.
If these suggestions are followed, this will greatly help sea turtle populations increase.
When you are finished researching sea turtles, you go SCUBA diving in the same spot you saw the sea turtle. This time there is not a sea turtle. Instead, there is a strange looking creature with a hard shell. You find out later it is a (Find out in my next report!)
Ripple, Jeff. Sea Turtles. Silverwater, Minnesota: Voyager Press, 1996.
Pacific Whale Foundation. Hawksbill Sea Turtle. http://www.pacificwhale.org/childrens/fshawksbill.html Last visited: February 21, 2002.
Texas Park and Wildlife. Atlantic Hawksbill Sea Turtle. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/endang/animals/hawkturt.htm Last visited: February 21, 2002.
Marine Turtle Protection Trust Fund. How You Can Help the Sea Turtles.http://www.fpl.com/environment/endangered/contents/ how_you_can_help_the_sea_turtle.shtml. Last visited: February 21, 2002.