10 things you never knew about marine turtles this World Sea Turtle Day
World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated on 16 June. Why does it matter? Apart from an excuse to watch unbelievably cute videos of turtle hatchlings, a snapshot of our conservation work in Kenya, supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, it’s a great chance to learn something new about these ancient and mysterious creatures.
To mark World Sea Turtle Day, WWF has shared ten facts about marine turtles highlighting the importance of conserving this brilliant species.
Turtles don’t have teeth. Instead, their upper and lower jaws have sheaths made of keratin (the same stuff your fingernails are made of) that fit onto the skull like a pair of false teeth.
Turtle shells are made of over 50 bones fused together - so they're literally wearing their bones on the outside.
The first few years of a marine turtle’s life are often referred to as the ‘lost years’. That’s because the time between when the hatchlings emerge until they return to coastal shallow waters to forage is incredibly difficult to study. The lost years they spend at sea – which can be up to 20 years – largely remain a mystery to humans.
Marine turtle species vary greatly in size. The smallest, Kemp’s ridley, are around 70cm long and up to 40kg in weight whilst the leatherback can reach up to 180cm and 500kg in weight. That’s over 10 times heavier!
It’s estimated that as few as 1 in 1,000 marine turtle eggs will survive to adulthood.
Female leatherbacks make some interesting noises when they are nesting – some of which sound similar to a human belch.
Turtles seem to prefer red, orange and yellow coloured food. They appear to investigate these colours more than others when looking for a meal.
Marine turtles can migrate long distances – the record is for a female leatherback that swam nearly 13,000 miles over 647 days from Indonesia to the west coast of America!
Female marine turtles return to the same beach they hatched on to nest. Marine turtles’ amazing ability to navigate comes from their sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic fields.
Even with all these amazing features and adaptations, six of the seven marine turtle species are considered critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and the seventh is listed as data deficient. WWF UK works to conserve marine turtle species, carrying out on-going work with the support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery on the coast in Kenya, where five different species of marine turtles are found.