Sea Turtles

Curiosities about five species that occur in Brazil.

By TAMAR

Tamar

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Sea turtles play a significant role in balancing the oceans’ food chain. They feed on more than 200 taxa of vertebrates and invertebrates, including marine sponges, jellyfish, molluscs and crustaceans. Green turtles, for instance, help to maintain healthy seagrass beds, by grazing on it. (2008) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Flagship Species

Like the Giant Panda and the Golden Lion Tamarin, sea turtles are considered a flagship species in Brazil and throughout the world. A flagship species is a charismatic species that catches people’s attention. For this reason, they are used to disseminate conservation messages and to educate the public about the need to protect lesser-known species and their habitats.

Sea Turtles in Brazil (2014) by Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). This species has a finely serrated beak, which helps them in tearing algae and sea grasses, their main food source. (2013) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Green sea turtle

Scientific name: Chelonia mydas Small head with a single pair of prefrontal scales and a serrated jaw to facilitate feeding.

Picture of green turtle hatchlings Sea turtle hatchlings instinctively head toward the natural light of the ocean horizon. – the time between hatching and when they return to coastal areas, as juveniles. (2013) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Green turtle. This species has a small and blunt head with a finely serrated beak, which helps them in tearing algae and sea grasses, their main food source. (2013) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

It usually lives in coastal waters that have lots of marine vegetation or on islands and bays. It is rarely seen at high sea. It weighs an average of 160 kg and its shell measures a little over a meter. The head is small and has a serrated jaw, which facilitates feeding. Nesting mainly occurs on oceanic islands: trindade Island (Espírito Santo State), Atol das Rocas (Rio Grande do Norte State) and Fernando de Noronha (Pernambuco State).

Green sea turtle (2013) by Projeto TAMARTAMAR

The leatherback carapace is composed of a layer of thin, leathery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates, with seven longitudinal ridges. They are named for their unique, leathery shell. (2009) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Leatherback turtle

The leatherback turtle is the largest of all species of sea turtles. The average weight is 400 kg and the shell length reaches a meter and a half.

Close-up of a leatherback hatchling. Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchlings are larger than those of other sea turtles. (2013) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchling in Comboios, state of Espírito Santo. (2009) by TAMAR Image BankOriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

It is found on all tropical and temperate oceans of the world. It usually lives most of its life in the oceanic area, far away from the coast. It is a highly migratory species and may feed on a continent and nest on another one. The only regular nesting area that we know of in Brazil is on the north coast of Espírito Santo State.

Letherback sea turtle (2013) by Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) with a group of fish. (2011) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Loggerhead turtle

It is the most common species nesting on the Brazilian coast, with the highest concentration of nests in the northern part of the state of Bahia. The adult turtle weights about 140kg and its carapace length measures a meter.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). In Brazil, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting season runs from september to march. (2010) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). Loggerheads are circumglobal, occurring throughout temperate, tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. (2013) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

It is carnivorous throughout its life cycle and has a extremely strong jaw. Its favorite food is crabs, mussels and clams. It is known as loggerhead turtle because, proportionally, it has a larger head than the other species. In Brazil, the main nesting areas are located in the north of Bahia state, Espírito Santo state, north of Rio de Janeiro state and Sergipe state.

Hawksbill sea turtle with a group of blue tangs (Acanthurus coeruleus) in a cleaning station. Sea turtles allow these fishes to feed on epibionts on their shell. (2009) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Hawksbill turtle

It is the most tropical of all sea turtles and lives around the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. It prefers to live near coral reefs and shallow coastal waters. It weights about 86 kg.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Hawksbills are the most tropical of the sea turtles and are most commonly found in coral reefs and rocky areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. (2002) by TAMAR Image BankOriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

Male hawksbill sea turtle on Praia do Forte (Bahia) reef, right in front of the Garcia D'Avila Lighthouse. This area hosts the national headquarters for Projeto Tamar. (2009) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMAROriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

Four side plates that overlap like the one of a hawk. It feeds on sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp. The narrow head and beak allow this turtle to seek food in coral reefs crevices. The name “comb made” refers to the time when these turtle's shell were used to make combs, jewlry, eyeglass frames, other tools and props.

Hawksbill sea turtle (2013) by Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Olive ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) are omnivorous and they feed on a variety of food items, including shrimp, fish, crabs, mollusks, jellyfish, algae and many others. (2007) by TAMAR Image BankOriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

Olive ridley

It is found mainly in coastal waters but can also be seen in the open sea. It is one of the smallest sea turtles in the world; the maximum shell length is 83 cm and the maximum registered weight is 60kg.

Olive ridley hatchlings. (2010) by TAMAR Image BankOriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

Olive ridley turtles nest in what is known as "arribadas", which are defined as a mass synchronized nesting, with hundreds of females coming ashore at the same time to lay their eggs. This phenomenon only occurs in India, Mexico and Costa Rica. (2009) by Banco de Imagens Projeto TAMARTAMAR

It was named after the olive color of its shell tone may become reddish because of algae growing on the carapace. It has a small head and powerful jaws. It is carnivorous. It feeds on salps, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, bryozoans, tunicates and jellyfish. In places where there are many shrimps, tehre are also many olive ridley turtles. The reproduction area is located between the south coast of the Alagoas State and the north coast of Bahia State but the larger number of nests happens in the Sergipe State.

Olive ridley sea turtle (2013) by Projeto TAMARTAMAR

Green turtle. This species is the largest of the hard-shelled turtles weighing up to 160 kg and measuring up to 1 M of carapace length. (2008) by TAMAR Image BankOriginal Source: http://www.tamar.org.br

Credits: Story

Credits

TAMAR
Pro-TAMAR Foundation

Coordination: Guy Marie Guagni Dei Marcovaldi
Executive board, editing and technical consulting: Neca Marcovaldi
Curator and writer: Beatriz Ribas
Technical consulting and translation: Daphne Wrobel
Photos: Tamar Image Bank
Tamar's Google Cultural Institute development: 2Palito Projetos

Tamar represents a sum of efforts between Pro-TAMAR Foundation and Tamar/ICMBio/Environmental Ministry sponsored officialy by Petrobras.

National headquarters:
Rua Rubens Guelli, 134, sala 307
Ed. Empresarial Itaigara, Salvador, Bahia
Phone: (71) 3676-1045 protamar@tamar.org.br
http://www.tamar.org.br

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