Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Species Spotlight: Loggerhead Sea Turtle

January 13, 2011, 10:30 am

Loggerhead Sea TurtleA reddish-brown color, Loggerhead sea turtles can be found in almost every ocean on earth and call Biscayne National Park home. Loggerheads are noted for their disproportionately large head and their heart-shaped shelled. The Loggerhead is the largest hard-shelled turtle on the planet and the most common species of sea turtle in Florida.

The species was placed on the Threatened list on July 28, 1978 and has remained there ever since. The biggest threat to the species is not hunting but small scale fishing. Loggerheads are often found after drowning in shrimp nets, this is one of the most common ways Loggerhead numbers are decreasing.

Loggerheads are frequently observed around wrecks, underwater structures, and reefs. These locations provide turtles will ample food to survive. Loggerheads feed on crabs, jellyfish, Portuguese man-o-war, and mollusks. The turtles powerful jaws and sharp beaks allow them to eat a diet of hard-shelled prey.

The sea turtles nest in the U.S. from Texas to as far north as Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. Despite the wide habitat, 90 percent of all U.S. nesting is estimated to occur in Florida, especially the southeastern area. Around 20,000 nests are recorded annually, making southeastern Florida one of the five major loggerhead rookeries in the world and Biscayne a valuable habitat for the turtles.

Biscayne monitors turtle nesting and is helping the species make a comeback. Based on post-hatchling nest assessments, park staff believe that the successful protection of 100% of nests found in 2007 resulted in about 300 loggerhead hatchlings entering the Atlantic Ocean. So next time you are in Biscayne, be sure to keep your eyes open for Loggerheads.

One of the most important resources Biscayne has for protecting Loggerheads is you, the visitor! You can help protect the Loggerheads in a variety of simple and easy ways. The NPS has a comprehensive list about helping Loggerhead turtles.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is an independent organization that is making a difference for sea turtles. The center provides education about sea turtles, rehabilitation, exhibits and veterinary services. Visit the center in Juno Beach and start making an impact, or visit their website marinelife.org.

FUN FACTS

When Loggerheads reach adulthood, they can weigh up to 400 pounds

Loggerheads get their name from having an overly large sized head and hard beak.

When loggerheads first hatch they are approximately 1.77 inches in length and grow to be over 4 feet!