Grade Level: grade 4 - 8
Students will learn about the different marine turtle habitats and be able to make a model or replica using information gathered through their research.
sea grass coral reef
Marine turtles are found in just about every marine habitat available. Because marine turtles are reptiles and obtain their heat from external sources, they spend very little time in cold environments. Most species inhabit coastal areas where others spend most of their lives migrating via the ocean's currents. Those that inhabit the shallow waters of the coast are the green, loggerhead and Kemp's ridley sea turtles.
Green turtles are the sole herbivores of the marine turtle species. As adults they inhabit areas rich in sea grasses. They help maintain healthy sea grass beds upon which many marine organisms depend for the hatching and survival of their offspring. Greens are called "the lawnmowers of the sea."
Ridleys and loggerheads are omnivores, because they feed on different types of organisms such as crabs, fish, clams, shrimp and sometimes algae. The Laguna Madre is an important foraging ground for these species, therefore most of these turtles are found along the Texas/Mexico coast. It is not uncommon to find juveniles foraging during the late spring summer months.
The hawksbill is considered the most attractive of all marine turtles. As adults they spend most of their adult life near coral reefs where they feed primarily on sea sponges. Their shell or carapace is intricately patterned to blend in with the colors of the reef. Some of the other organisms found within the reef are eels, shrimp, butterfly fish, coral, sea sponges, anemones and many other invertebrates. Within this reef system there are predators that will eat adult sea turtles. This predatory animal is the shark.
One species that stands out from all the others is due to its amazing size - the Leatherback sea turtle. Some members of this species can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds. Leatherbacks are considered pelagic animals because they spend most of their lives swimming in very deep waters. Very little is known about the amazing leatherback because it is not an animal that frequents shallow waters. Leatherbacks will follow jellyfish migrating through cold water and still maintain a stable body temperature due to their thick, cartilaginous shells.
1. Research one species of marine turtle found in the Gulf of Mexico.
2. Identify and make a list of all the living and nonliving things that make up their habitat. Look for things that are part of a marine turtle’s habitat such as food webs, ecology (plants and animals), and human impact. Include all these factors into your diorama.
3. Look through old magazines for pictures, especially National Geographic or travel magazines. Locate and cut out any pictures which will be useful in helping you construct your turtle's habitat.
4. Glue all your magazine cut outs to the inside of your shoe box.
5. Present turtle habitats to the class and discuss things learned from your research. Students can include a written report about their topic.
6. Discuss how an ecosystem is organized. Biome, ecosystem, and niche are terms that define the composition of animal habitats. Explain how living and nonliving parts work together in nature. Make this part of the report that the student includes with their habitat model.