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Caribbean Sea Turtles: Meet Them and Freak Out

ribbean Sea Turtles - hawksbill

It doesn’t matter if we are diving or snorkeling; we only need to see one of the Caribbean Sea turtle to feel the enthusiasm.

Yes, we love Caribbean Sea turtles. They bring a smile to our faces. They give us a topic of conversation with other divers. But beyond that, they make us feel connected, part of a whole with the sea and nature, so the more we know about them, the more we enjoy seeing them.

We tell you about Caribbean Sea turtles, how many species there are, how to tell them apart, and many more things and facts. Continue reading, and enjoy.

The Incredible Caribbean Sea turtles

Scuba Diving, the Caribbean Sea, and their marine animals have a lot of stories to tell. All of them, Caribbean Sea turtles too and it started a long time ago. The first turtles were on the Earth more than 200 million years ago. The oldest sea turtle fossil is 112 million years old.

These primitive reptiles evolved, some by adapting to the terrestrial environment. Another group had to adapt to the aquatic habitat. Marine turtles did it, developing a hydrodynamic shell.

Caribbean Sea Turtles - Loggerhead

Their shells have a somewhat flattened top for swimming, scales, and a thick rear edge to protect them from predators.  However, these features had a drawback: marine sea turtles cannot hide the head and legs inside the shell.

Thus, with their heads held high, their lungs capable of holding their breath for several hours, and their prodigious legs, they arrived in the Caribbean.

Caribbean Sea turtles are those species that, despite being seen in other parts of the world, can be found diving or snorkeling in these temperate and crystalline waters.

Some swim across the world to nest on the same beaches where they were born. They use their front legs to propel themselves and their hind legs to steer and change direction.

Others have found here the perfect habitat for feeding. The fact is that here they are, in the same waters where we dive.

The Caribbean Sea Turtle Life Cycle

All Caribbean Sea turtles dig holes in the warm beach sand to lay their eggs. Incubation lasts 55 to 70 days, and then the hatchlings emerge from the sand altogether. This moment is incredible because it is a rare example of cooperation known as “proto-cooperation”. Afterward, they desperately run out to sea all alone in a grueling “every turtle for itself”.

Once at sea, the Caribbean Sea, the little turtles feed on the yolk sac inside them. They do not stop to feed but travel to the open sea in a “swimming frenzy” of several days to escape coastal predators.

There they spend the first years of their lives hiding in floating algae. As juveniles, they are as big as a dinner plate. This time until becoming pre-adults, they move freely among the waters of many Caribbean nations.

Caribbean Sea Turtles circle of life

If a Caribbean Sea turtle could recount this adventure, it would say something like this.

“I escaped from herons, dogs, seagulls, and humans. I survived sharks, boats, and pollution. When I finally reached adulthood, there was only me left of the more than 1,000 of us who were born on that beach.”

When Caribbean Sea turtles reach sexual maturity, they are recruited into adult populations to migrate, mate and go to nesting areas. The females return to the beach where they were born, and everything starts again. Males never leave the ocean.

They nest an average of 3 to 6 times per season but may nest up to 12 times. They then return to their feeding area, which in the schematic representation of the life cycle is called the “adult habitat”, and may be hundreds or thousands of miles/km from the nesting beach. Caribbean Sea turtle hatchlings make this migration every 2 to 5 years for the rest of their lives.

This life may seem hard, some even claim to have seen Caribbean Sea turtles cry, and they are not far from the truth. However, these tears are an incredible adaptive mechanism. Turtles get the water they need from the sea, but they have to filter it. To do this, they have special glands that manage the excess salt. Then the Caribbean Sea turtles expel the salt through the tear ducts.

Caribbean Sea Turtles, What Species Can We Find?

There are many species of Caribbean Sea turtles: Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Kemp’s ridley , Olive ridley… To review the characteristics of all of them in this article would be unrealistic, so we focus on analyzing the features of the 3 Caribbean Sea turtles that we most frequently see at Dressel Divers bases in the Caribbean.

1. Hawksbill turtle

– Narrow head with two pairs of prefrontal scales.

– Pointed mouth resembles a bird’s beak to reach food hidden in coral reefs.

– Adult weight ranges from 100 to 200 pounds (45 to 90 kg), and they reach 2 to 3 feet (0.5 to 1 meter) in length.

– The carapace has five vertebral scutes, four scutes on each side.

– 2 nails for each fin.

– Omnivorous, eats shrimp, jellyfish, crabs, snails, fish, algae, and seagrasses.

We invite you to learn more about Caribbean Sea turtles in the article 10 Hawksbill Turtle Facts You Shouldn’t Ignore.

2. Loggerhead Turtle

– Of the three, they have the largest head with 4-5 prefrontal shields on the head.

– Their beak is horny and toothless.

– They can weigh 90-180 kg (200-400 pounds), and the largest are up to 1.2 meters /4 feet long.

– Reddish-brown carapace 5 pairs of costal scutes.

– 2 nails per flipper.

– They are omnivorous

Find out more about them in the article 5 Loggerhead Turtle Facts That Will Surprise You

Caribbean Sea Turtles - Loggerhead turtle
Caribbean Sea Turtles - Loggerhead turtle

2. Loggerhead Turtle

– Of the three, they have the largest head with 4-5 prefrontal shields on the head.

– Their beak is horny and toothless.

– They can weigh 90-180 kg (200-400 pounds), and the largest are up to 1.2 meters /4 feet long.

– Reddish-brown carapace 5 pairs of costal scutes.

– 2 nails per flipper.

– They are omnivorous

Find out more about them in the article 5 Loggerhead Turtle Facts That Will Surprise You

3. Green turtle

 – Its head is small with only a pair of prefrontal scales.

– Their beak is rounded, although hard and serrated.

– They measure between 90 cm 2 feet and 160 cm 5 feet, their weight between 80-150 kg (176 -331 lb).

– The carapace has 4 pairs of costal scutes.

– 1 nail for each fin.

– Adults are vegetarian. That’s why their fat is green.

You can learn more about the green turtle in the article Everything About The Green Turtle Habitat and Many Interesting Facts About Them

Caribbean Sea Turtles - green turtle

We cannot see through the eyes of Caribbean Sea turtles or accompany them on their migrations to the other side of the world. They live under the surface of the ocean, and we have the privilege of sharing a short time with them.

Getting to know the Caribbean Sea turtles is basic because, in this way, we will be able to protect them and enjoy these meetings to the fullest. Come and see them, contact us!

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