Sea turtles are presumed to be one of the most majestic creatures on earth, as in legend, myth, and folklore. Here’s 10 fascinating facts about sea turtles you probably didn’t know.
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10. They’re older than dirt
It’s true. While the exact number has been debated, studies determine that turtles go as far back as the Mesozoic age, better known as the age of the dinosaurs. Fossils dating 260 million years suggest this turtle-like specie of reptile crawled the earth, with the first marine turtle dating back 220 million years. This evolutionary phenomenon dubs turtles one of the oldest creatures on earth, around the same age as the dinosaurs, who became extinct about 65 million years ago.
9. Plus size turtles need love too
A species known as the leatherback sea turtle can grow as large as six feet, and weigh in at about 550 to 2000 pounds. Also, like their size sea turtles can grow really, really old in age.
8. Sea turtles love going on vacation
As the name suggests, these tedious travelers are the only specie of turtle that lack a hard shell, with a soft layer resembling a leathery texture; seemingly, the lighter load makes for easier movement. Scientists track leatherbacks by way of satellite and have tracked their progress over hundreds and even thousands of miles across the deep blue sea.
7. They could outswim Michael Phelps
The devious divers slow their heart rate by up to nine minutes—a crafty way of conserving oxygen. Of course, this feat is highly dependent on their level of aquatic activity at the time. If sleeping, a sea turtle can survive under water for four to seven hours; during times of hibernation in colder waters, they can hold their breath for up to ten.
6. Home is where the heart is
Sea turtles have an innate connection to their natal beaches. So, when it comes time to lay their eggs, females return to the same birthing place as generations before. Turtle shells and human fingernails are one in the same. An interesting point that most don’t know, is that unlike land turtles, a sea turtle lacks the ability to hide their head inside their shells. Moreover, the shell is made up of two parts—the upper part being the carapace (with a flatter shape to help them swim), and the bottom known as the plastron. This entire structural skeleton is made up of keratin, the same fibrous substance found in fingernails, and the most abundant form of protein on earth. The whole shell is fused together by 60 bones, and if one were to rip the turtle from its homey habitat, they would rip the poor animal’s body apart.
4. Some like it hot
If the egg incubates at colder temperatures such as 82 Fahrenheit, the gender is subsequently male. If temperatures are over 88—the hatchling will be female. Interestingly enough, any number between the aforementioned can be a mix of either. What’s more, maternal sea turtles don’t lay on their eggs, so any form of temperature to permeate the nest is from sand alone. On average only one in one thousand hatchlings survive.
3. Turtles have feelings, too
Scientists link tears to the birthing process because the behavior was only observed when the females came ashore, yet studies have shown they cry in the sea as well. Sea turtles must run certain glands in order to maintain the correct balance of salt in their bodies, therefore, research has associated crying with egg laying when really the production of tears help flush salt and sand from their eyes. Still, if it looks like these sweet sea creatures are all lone shedding tears, it’s…
2. Probably because They’re endangered
Several factors impede the survival of sea turtles, the most common being entanglement by fishing nets, habitat loss due to tourism, and the consumption of their eggs and flesh as food. Poaching and exploitation results in the slaughtering of their shells and skin; in addition, sea turtles suffer from climate change which has a severe effect on their nesting sites. Lastly, waste—such as in the form of plastic bags and bottles, are an attractive food source and quickly lead to suffocation and death.
1. They’ve got their own built-in GPS system
Sea turtles possess an innate ability to determine their exact location on earth as well as the direction they need to be. This skill allows the ocean dwellers to locate favorable feeding grounds as well as their natal birthing grounds. Scientists have determined that sea turtles are very sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field, and much like a compass that relays direction, sea turtles can do just that. In addition, through said magnetic force, the pull allows them positional info, much like that of a GPS system.