Loggerhead Sea Turtle

(Tortuga Caguama)

Caretta caretta
Family: Cheloniidae

Status: Threatened

Adult Loggerhead in South Padre Island, Texas
Hatchling Loggerhead in South Padre Island, Texas

This animal is named for its proportionally large head and powerful jaws. The upper shell (carapace) is brown and reddish-brown. The body skin ranges from brown to yellow. The lower shell (plastron) ranges from creamy to yellow. The scales on the top of the head are often a deep rusty brown color. Adults of this species weigh from 170-500 pounds (77-227 kilograms) and are nearly four feet (1.2 meters) in total length.

Habitat and Distribution

Loggerhead sea turtles inhabit estuaries, lagoons, bays and ship channels in warm and temperate seas and oceans worldwide. Known nesting grounds for this species are located in the wider Caribbean, Southeastern United States, the Yucatan in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil, Laganas and Kalimaki in Greece and in Dalyan beach in Turkey.

General Information

Sexual maturity is reached somewhere between 15 to 20 years of age. Like most species of sea turtles, adult males differ in appearance from females in having a much larger and stronger tail. The pair breeds at sea and the female comes ashore to nest. In the U.S., loggerheads nest during the months of April to July. Generally, 105 to 120 eggs are laid per clutch. A single female may lay several clutches per season. Some nest every year, others nest in alternate years. Egg incubation ranges from 55 to 60 days. Like most sea turtles, it nests at night. This species is primarily carnivorous and feeds on a variety of crabs, jellyfish, shellfish and sponges. Some loggerheads bury themselves in the mud during the winter months. Dredges excavating ship channels frequently injure or kill the dormant turtles.

Current Threats and Historic Reasons for Decline

Through out much of its U.S. nesting habitat, raccoons are a major egg predator. Lights on coastal highways and housing developments disorient the nocturnal emerging hatchlings of this species, often causing them to move away from the water and be killed by automobiles. Loggerhead hides are highly valued for their rich color and are widely used to make leather products such as boots, wallets, and purses.

 

Photos by Adrienne McCracken