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10 Hawksbill Turtle Facts You Shouldn’t Ignore

Hawksbill Turtle Facts - Playa Paraiso.

One of the most known hawksbill turtle facts is that these precious animals are very good dive buddies. In fact, for a scuba diver, it is really an amazing experience to be face to face with these friendly and curious tortoises. Thankfully, enjoying their company during a dive is a frequent pleasure. With their charming faces, the intricate patterns of their shells, and their graceful movement in the water, one feels hypnotized, and dazzled and wants to learn more about them.

If this is your case, and you are interested in finding out more about Hawksbills turtles, read on!! In this article, you are going to find 10 Hawksbill turtle facts you should know. Be aware that learning about hawksbill turtles is going to help us appreciate more the beauty of these beautiful animals. It will also help us to dive with them in an ethical and respectful way.

Take a look at the table of contents.

Hawksbill Turtle Facts - main picture

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Fun Facts from The Mesozoic to Nowadays

Hawksbills are one of the seven alive marine turtles’ species which currently exist on our planet. The scientists believe that the “Cheloniidae” family, name of the marine turtles, lives on our planet since the last Mesozoic, more than 65 million years ago.

1. Hawksbill Turtle Scientific Name

Eretmochelys imbricata is the Hawksbill Turtle Scientific Name. This turtle has a few common names: “Carey” in Spanish and hawksbill sea turtles in English, which refers to its beak shape.

This animal belongs to:

Kingdom: Metazoa

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Testudines

Family: Cheloniidae

And they have two subspecies:

Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle; whose scientific name is Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata (Linnaeus, 1766) and another Indo-Pacific subspecies which hawksbill sea turtle scientific name is Eretmochelys imbricata bissa (Rüppell, 1835).

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Facts About Their Bodies

2. Hawksbill Sea Turtle features

It is easy to distinguish a hawksbill turtle from the other marine species because of its narrow head and its pointed mouth that is certainly similar to a bird beak, hence their name. This beak is absolutely adapted to its feeding needs so, they can reach into the cracks and crevices of coral reefs where their food is hidden.

Some authors consider the hawksbill turtle shell is the most beautiful of all sea and land turtle shells.

Its extraordinary beauty is due to the color pattern of its shields, which range from yellow to black through amber, red and brown.

Hawksbill turtles have 13 central translucent shields and 10 pairs of marginal ones. As the turtle grows, the shells interweave like roof shingles so that water does not seep in. They are stunning because they reflect the sunlight, giving the sensation of shining like precious stones when viewed through the water.

The front fins are medium in length compared to those of other species; they are covered by scales and have two nails per fin.


3. Hawksbill Sea Turtle Size

A further distinctive feature is their size. They are considered a small marine turtle species. Adult weight oscillates between 100-200 pounds (45 – 90 kg) and they reach 2-3 feet (0.5 to 1 meter) in length.

pictures of hawksbill turtles

Hawksbill Turtle Habitat

The hawksbill sea turtles are inhabitants of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, although the largest population occurs in the Caribbean Sea and other tropical and subtropical waters.

hawksbill sea turtle specimens have been found in more than 100 countries, yet nesting has only been recorded in 70.

They love to spend their time on coral reefs, rocky areas, and shallow coastal places where sponges are abundant and sandy nesting sites are within reach. For that reason, it is not common to see them more than 65m/213 feet below the surface.

 

4. Atlantic Hawksbill Sea Turtle

The atlantic hawksbill turtle lives mainly along the American coasts, from southeastern Florida to southern Brazil, including the Bahamas and the West Indies. But more especially the hawksbill sea turtle habitat is in the Caribbean, where there are records in more than 35 countries (CONANP 2010, Meyland, 1999). However, they are not as abundant in the eastern Atlantic. They are rarely seen in the Mediterranean.

The Atlantic hawksbill turtle has its principal nesting centers in the entire northern hemisphere, where Dressel Divers has its dive centers in Mexico: the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically Quintana Roo. This is because, in this area, there find the best of life and abundant reefs. This area constitutes one of the focal feeding grounds in the Caribbean for hawksbills (Cuevas et al., 2006).


Hawksbill Sea Turtle Behavior

5. What Do Hawksbill Sea Turtles Eat?

They mainly consume sponges, being the only known spongivorous reptile. For this reason, their flesh is harmful to humans. Sponges contain toxic chemical compounds which accumulate in the animal’s tissues ant it causes serious illnesses.

But hawksbills not only eat sponges, they also eat mollusks, marine algae, red lobsters, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. So, they are omnivorous.

The truth is that their diet is so varied because they live in many places and what they eat differs from one area to another. In addition, hawksbill sea turtles’ diets vary throughout their lives. For example, hatchlings live offshore life and hide in floating algae and feed on the crustaceans, bryozoans, tunicates, and annelids that live in them.


6. Hawksbill Turtle Migration

Hawksbills are migratory animals and travel thousands of kilometers from very distant habitats. In the Pacific, the longest recorded migration has been between 2000 km/1300mi. The hawksbill turtle swam between Australia and the Solomon Islands.

An Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle swam 3000 km/1900mi. between Mexico and the Dominican Republic

Hawksbill turtles migrate great distances in order to travel from feeding sites to reach secluded nesting sites.

hawksbill turtle facts and pictures

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Reproduction


7. Hawksbill Turtle
Eggs

Hawksbill turtles have sexual reproduction and internal fertilization. In Mexico, the nesting season varies depending on the coast, from April to August in the Atlantic and from May to October in the Pacific (Guzmán et al., 2008; Márquez, 1990).

Nesting is the moment when the female turtles leave the water and can be seen on the sand of small beaches.

Hawksbill sea turtle females dig a pit in the sand. It usually is about 50cm /19 in. deep and inside they leave the eggs covered by sand again. The egg size is approximately 36 mm in diameter and 28 g in weight and hatch in about 60 days.

Did you know that temperature determines the sex of the hatchlings? According to (Revuelta, 2010; SEMARNAT, 2010; Guzman et al., 2008) l when the temperature is around 29°C/ 84.2 F ratio is 1:1, but if the temperature rises, more female baby hawksbill turtle are born. If it drops, the baby hawksbill turtle males will dominate the hatching.

On average, a hawksbills nests three to eight clutches per season, roughly every 2 weeks and it lays from 140 to 200 eggs per nest or more. The reason is that baby hawksbill turtles must do the most dangerous journey of their lives just after they break the shell to reach the sea from their nest.  Only a few of them make it.

Baby hawksbill turtles generally weigh less than 24 g. / 0.05 lb. and measure approximately 2.5 cm/ 1 in. in length. Unfortunately, about one out of 1000 hatchlings will make it to adulthood.

8. Hawksbill Turtle Lifespan

Hawksbill sea turtles reach sexual maturity between 20 and 40 years of age (20 in the Caribbean and 30-35 in the Indo-Pacific and northern Australia). It is estimated that they can live between 30 and 50 years.

hawksbill sea turtle facts and pictures

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Adaptations

9. Hawksbill Sea Turtle Predators

Hawksbills’ principal defense is their shell. However, sea turtles cannot hide their heads and legs inside them and are still preyed upon by large fish, sharks, crocodiles, and octopuses.

As soon as the eggs hatch, domestic animals, crabs, and seabirds are their main threats.

However, the hawksbill turtle’s main predator is the human being.

The hawksbill turtle is exploited precisely because of what protects it: its shell. Their shell keratin plates are expensive in the world market, as much as ivory, rhinoceros horns, or some precious stones.

Other threats to hawksbill sea turtles are egg collecting, incidental fishing, diseases such as fibropapilloma, loss of nesting and feeding habitat, oil pollution, ingestion of marine debris, etc.

 

10. Hawksbill Sea Turtle Conservation Status

Several organizations consider the hawksbill turtle to be critically endangered.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the hawksbill turtle as a threatened species for the first time in 1968. The institution changed its classification to critically endangered in 1996. The same is true for other organizations, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMANART) and the international network Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO) also consider the hawksbill sea turtle as a critically endangered species.

Their preference for a diet based on sponges turned these animals into an important support for the coral reefs. Without them, sponges would have the ability to overgrow corals and suffocate reefs. In addition, they provide better access for reef fish to feed.

Thanks to these 10 hawksbill turtle facts, we know a little more about these animals, and we are sure you will remember them the next time you scuba dive with one of these amazing creatures. Tell us, when will be the next time?

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