Jupiter Marine Spotlight: Hawksbill Sea Turtle

 
 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill turtles are a critically endangered and are found mainly in coral reefs throughout the world's tropical oceans. They are small to medium sized sea turtles with stunning shells that get their common name from their narrow head and hawk-like beak and will reach a length between 2 1/2 -3ft. The turtles have an expected life-span of 30-50 years and full grown can weigh up to 100-150lbs. The carapace is heart-shaped in very young turtles, and becomes more elongate with maturity.

Hawksbill sea turtles are omnivores, and the turtle’s narrow head and jaw shaped like a beak allows it to get food from crevices in coral reefs. They eat sponges, anemones, shrimp and squid. The habitats of Hawksbills vary by stages in their life cycle and they’re typically found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, and lagoons. Young Hawksbill turtles cannot dive into deep water and therefore live on masses of floating sea plants, such as sargassum. The ledges and caves of the reef provide shelter for resting both during the day and night.

Roughly every 2-3 years, the female Hawksbill will nest 3 to 6 times during nesting season. She’ll dig a nest in the sand on the beach and lays an average of 160 egg each time. She’ll return to the water immediately after covering up her nest and after about two months the hatchlings will emerge at night and make their way to the ocean.

For more info about Hawksbill turtles, The Florida Hawksbill Project is a great source. We’re lucky, we get Dr. Larry Wood with the Florida Hawksbill project aboard the Kyalami to find Hawksbill turtles for research. He has special permits to handle sea turtles and brings them aboard for all kinds of different testing and then will tag them before they go back in the water. He’s extremely knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions anyone might have regarding Hawksbill turtles.

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- Anne

 
Anne Hill