Common Species of Turtles

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Turtles inhabit saline, brackish or fresh water. Marine turtles are on this earth for more than 100 million years.

Marine turtles possess hard beak-like mouth to tear and mash food, a large carapace (upper shell), 2 pairs of strong flippers to swim inside the deep sea/ocean and lungs to breath air.  

Due to a number of human activities like hunting for their meat and eggs, pollution, demolition of natural habitats like mangrove forests, coral reefs, nesting beaches etc, a number of marine turtle species are now considered as threatened.   

There are seven marine-turtle species known so far among which six are found in Australia.

The following are the different species of marine turtles.

Caretta caretta (Loggerhead turtle)

  • 55-95 cm long and weigh around 55 kg.
  • Vertebral/coastal scutes in pairs
  • 3 pairs of infra-marginal scutes
  • Large head with strong jaws
  • Front-flippers with two claws
  • Males have thicker, longer tails and narrower shells
  • Carnivorous

Chelonia mydas Green sea-turtle (name derived from their green colored fat)

  • Length- 80-120 cm and weight- 130-250 kg
  • Adults- brown, hatchlings- almost black
  • Coastal scutes-2pairs
  • 2 scales on the fore-head
  • Single claw on each fore-flipper
  • Omnivorous
  • Strong jagged jaws

Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback turtle)

  • Largest sea turtles
  • Dark blue to black, with pink or white patches
  • 120-210cm long
  • May weigh up to 900kg  
  • Skin smooth and leathery with numerous tiny bones embedded in it
  • 7 elevated ridges on the shell-surface
  • Claws absent
  • Serrated jaws
  • Carnivorous
  • Can withstand a wider range of temperature

Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill turtle)

  • Greenish-brown to dark
  • 55-95 cm long and 55kg weight
  • Narrow jaws with overhanging and curved upper beak
  • Scutes overlapping
  • 2 claws on each of the fore-flippers
  • Concave plastron in males, tail longer and thicker, bigger claws
  • Carnivorous

Lepidochelys olivacea (Olive Ridley turtle) 

  • Grayish-brown Hatchlings and olive green adults 
  • Smallest sea-turtles (50-70cm long and around 50 kg in weight)
  • Shell almost round with 6 to 9 lateral scutes
  • Carnivorous
  • Claws (1-2) grow on flippers 

Natator depressus (Flatback turtle)

  • Olive grey colored turtles
  • Grow up to 97 cm in length and 84 kgs weight
  • Flat and round shells
  • Omnivorous
  • Shell margins folded and covered by thin, non-overlapping waxy scutes

Lepidochelys kempii (Kemp's Ridley)

  • Gray to light olive green
  • Size: 70 cm in length and weight 45 kg
  • Five lateral scutes
  • Claws present on the claws
  • Carnivorous

Chelonia agassizi (Black turtle)          

  • Grayish black with black markings 
  • Length- 117cm and weight up to 126 kg
  • Jaws- jagged
  • Single claw on each front-flipper
  • Omnivores

For more information about turtles please visit: Turtle Species.

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