Have you ever been walking on the beach and saw sea turtle tracks leading up to a nest and wondered which species it could be? Did you know that each species of sea turtles have their own unique traits and tracks?
There are three common turtle nests that you can find from the Florida Keys to Cape Canaveral: the green turtle, the loggerhead turtle, and the leatherback turtle.
The loggerhead sea turtle is the most common turtle to nest off the coast of Florida, so their tracks are most often seen on beaches during nesting season. Loggerheads are named after their massive, block-like head. Adult loggerheads on average weigh 275 pounds and can have a shell length of about 3 feet. They use their powerful jaws to crush clams, crabs, and other crustaceans.
The green sea turtle, named for its green body fat, also can be found on Florida's beaches each year. Approximately 100-1,000 green turtles nest on Florida's coast during nesting season. During the day they are found in shallow flats and seagrass meadows and return to their usual rock ledges, coral reefs, and oyster bars to sleep during the evening. Adult green turtles are unique in that they are largely vegetarians! They can weigh up to 350 pounds and its shell can grow to about 3.3 feet.
The leatherback sea turtle, the largest of all sea turtles, is very distinct. Instead of a hard shell like other turtles, they are covered with a firm, leathery skin. This covering helps them tolerate stings from jellyfish - which is what their diet consists mostly of. Unlike other turtles, leatherbacks can regulate their body temperature which allows them to be able to tolerate colder water and have even been found in waters as cold as Alaska and Labrador! They can also descend great depths of more than 3,000 feet. Leatherbacks on average can grow to 6 feet in length and can weigh anywhere from 500-1,500 pounds, with the record being 10 feet long and weighing more than 2,000 pounds!