By Roberta Kravette
Sea Turtles! On land, they seem impossibly slow, bulky, awkward and well … impossible. What are these ancient animals, lumbering up the beach, laying piles of vulnerable eggs in the sand, seemingly oblivious to on-lookers or do-gooders, or predators or anything else, good for anyway? You might be surprised!
Sea Turtles are Super Heroes!
Hawksbill Sea Turtles Help Save the Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs, already imperiled from pollution and climate change, can also be smothered by certain sponge species. Sea turtles to the rescue! Hawksbills eat those sponge species.
2. Leatherback Sea Turtles Control Jelly Fish
Leatherback sea turtles eat jellyfish, without them jellyfish populations would explode, and since jellyfish eat larval fish, the fish population would crash, making swimming less pleasant and fishing and eating more difficult.
3. Want Healthy Sea Beds (and Vacation Beaches)? Bring on the Sea Turtles!
Sea turtles eat seagrasses, keeping the beds neat and healthy. In places where sea turtle populations have significantly declined, old seagrass decomposes in place, encouraging algae, microorganisms, invertebrates, fungi, and slime mold. The water (and people) of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean all suffer the ill-effects of sea turtle decline.
4. Protecting Small Fish & Resting Birds: Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
In the open ocean, when sea turtles (olive ridleys, especially) come to the surface to rest, seabirds, miles from shore, perch on their shells. Small fish gather under the resting sea turtle for protection from sharks.
5. Defense Against Storm Surge, Nesting Sea Turtles
Sea Turtle egg shells nourish dune vegetation like beach grass. Healthy beach grass helps control beach erosion, stabilizing dunes which help prevent damaging tide surges.
The Precarious Life of the Sea Turtle
6. Shark Snack: Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Adult sea turtles also have their share of predators: Tiger sharks prefer green sea turtles while great whites enjoy both the green and loggerhead sea turtles.
7. On Land or in Water, Danger is Everywhere for Baby Sea Turtles:
A study of green sea turtles in Australia showed that 97% of the hatchlings were consumed within an hour of entering the water. On land the hatchlings may look only snack size, but the eggs and hatchlings feed dozens of other species. Species from ants to vultures, herons, fox, mongoose, and other small mammals look to the hatchlings for their next meal.
8. Sea Turtles and the Dangerous Path to Nesting
Individual females do not nest in consecutive years. When it is their time, they may migrate hundreds – even thousands of miles to find the right beach. Those miles are filled with fishing line that entangles and drown thousands of sea turtles every year.
9. Climate Change Means More Female Sea Turtles
The warming climate means trouble for sea turtles. Warmer temperatures means fewer males. Why? Sand temperature decides the gender of sea turtles. Rising temperatures worldwide has led to hotter sand and significantly more males than females being born. At Ingram Island (Australia), a study of the Pacific Ocean’s largest and most important green sea turtle rookery revealed females are outnumbering males 116 to 1 or 99%
Females Alone Cannot Create A Generation:
The very few adult male sea turtles, spread out over tens of thousands of miles of open ocean is bad news for females and worse news for the continuation of the sea turtle species. And this shrinking-male-population situation does not look as if it will slow down any time soon.
10. Your Dinner May Depend on a Sea Turtle:
Last night your dinner plate might have held a fish that spawned among the coral reefs dependent on sea turtles. Or one that relied on healthy, cropped seagrasses for nutrients and for keeping predators at bay. Sea turtles help both sea grass and coral reefs to thrive. Sea turtles impact food availability for humans, too.
11. Where Sea Turtles Once Guided Sailors They Are Now Functionally Extinct
Well according to historical logbooks, when Columbus was sailing around the Caribbean looking for his spice route, there were so many sea turtles that lost sailors could follow the sound of sea turtles migrating. Green Sea turtles are now ecologically extinct in the Caribbean.
How Many Sea Turtles are Left?
No one knows – but far fewer than a decade ago. Sea turtles are going to need some super-powered help from us to survive into the future. We need sea turtles to keep our oceans and planet healthy. And that's one great reason to holiday/volunteer in some of the most beautiful places on Earth! Make sure your ocean side vacation helps protect all marine life.
Special Thanks to these super heroes
SEE Turtles Billion Baby Sea Turtle Project
The Olive Ridley Project Fighting Ghost Nets and Saving Sea Turtles
Oceana Save the Ocean, Feed the World
The Leatherback Trust
Save the Loggerhead Sea Turtles
The Broward County Sea Turtle Preservation Program
And so many others for the vital work each is doing to protect and preserve sea turtles and our oceans.
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