Sea Turtle Essay Topics

Artwork and an essay for the children of the world by
Melissa A, Amber C, Uday K, Nevett M,
Allison R, Kevin S, Mike S, Hilary W
Grade 6 students
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

This work was created as a class project. Each thumbnail displays an original drawing and a haiku poem by the students. The drawings were done in black and white, then scanned and coloured by their teacher. The thumbnails are linked to 640x480 JPEGS.

Sea Turtles

Our Earth is called the Earth but 74% of its surface has water on it. It is really an Ocean Planet. Sea turtles have been on this planet for over 100 million years. They have outlived the dinosaurs and the Ice Age.

Turtles are interesting in many ways. For example when they reproduce they return to the same beaches where they were hatched. Scientists aren't really sure how they do this. Turtles lay their eggs on land. Turtles' eggs are the size of a ping pong ball. A female turtle will nest several times in a season but won't nest again for another 2 to 3 years after that. It will take 50-60 days for the eggs to hatch.

When the baby turtles hatch it can take them up to two days to dig their way up to the top of their nest. If the baby turtles feel warm sand they will stop because the warm sand indicates it is daytime. They stop digging and wait until it cools down which is a sign the sun has set and it is night.

The reason they wait is because they might dry out on their long journey to the ocean. This arrangement also works out because this will reduce the chances of predators catching them before they make it to the ocean. After the turtles burst out of the sand they head for the brightest area and that is usually the sea because the moon is shining on the ocean.

Sometimes the brightest place is not the ocean because condos and hotel lights are a lot brighter than the moonlight over the water. Every year baby turtles get killed because they go the wrong way and head for shopping malls and other bright lights. They get killed crossing roads and getting dried out because they are disoriented and fooled into going the wrong way.

There are different kinds of turtles in this world. They include the Leatherback, the Olive Ridley, the Kemp's Ridley, the Green turtle, the Black turtle and the Loggerhead. Of all these the Kemp's Ridley is the smallest and most endangered.

A while ago there was a great sea turtle hero. His name is Archie Carr. Archie Carr devoted his life to sea turtles. He also started a sea turtle sanctuary called the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. Archie Carr and his friends put tags on adult turtles and would give five dollars to whoever found a tag. The reason they put tags on them was to see how far they travelled. He got a tag returned that was sent all the way from Venezuela. He would not put tags on baby turtles because they were too small.

That makes baby turtles hard to track. Archie Carr hoped to find where the hatchlings go once they leave their beach. Scientists did not know where the baby turtles went. Archie Carr spent a long time trying to find the answer to this big question. Luckily he found out just before he died where the hatchlings go. He found out that the hatchlings go to a special place in the ocean and find a kind of seaweed called Sargassum and live and feed on it. Sargassum is good because it camouflages the baby turtles from predators.

The only problem is the Sargassum grows where pollution accumulates and they are too far away from the turtle scientists who can protect them. They will eat plastics and tar balls because they mistake these things for food. Many baby turtles get killed from eating bad things.

Archie Carr also spent a long time looking for the nesting beach of the Kemp's Ridley. One day he saw a movie that was made in 1947 only he saw it in the Sixties. It showed 40,000 female Kemp's Ridleys that went on the beach as Rancho Nuevo to lay their eggs. Now hardly any nest there. In 1994 only about 500 females showed up to lay their eggs.

Turtles have a tough time surviving. They have many predators. The worst one is people. Japan is the number one place for sea turtle marketing. They make many sea turtle products. These include turtle shell mounts, stuffed baby turtles and meat. The skin of turtles is used for the leather industry.

Another major problem that is killing turtles is the shrimping industry. They have caused so many turtle killings that the US government created the T.E.D. (Turtle Excluder Device). The TED virtually eliminates the turtle deaths and bycatch. Shrimpers don't want to use TED's because they think they will catch fewer shrimp and they don't like the government to tell them what to do. We hope shrimpers will be more mature and responsible about helping the turtles.

Poachers are also a big problem. Most poachers take the eggs to feed their families but some poachers will kill nesting females. This is very bad because it takes nature a long time to grow an adult female turtle. When poachers kill adult females they are endangering the species more than if they took the eggs.

There are many researchers trying to save the turtles' habitat. They strive every day to keep the turtles, hatchlings and nests safe from poachers and their natural enemies. They are called Archie's Army and were inspired by Archie Carr. Hundreds of researchers are dedicated to saving the lives of turtles. This was all possible because of Archie Carr. Many turtles because of this were saved from extinction.

Archie Carr died in 1987. He worked to save turtles all his life. Archie Carr is a memorable person.


Last modified 04/03/20
Send comments or corrections to webmaster@turtles.org

An Overview

Sea turtles are large, air-breathing reptiles that inhabit tropical and subtropical seas throughout the world. Their shells consist of an upper part (carapace) and a lower section (plastron). Hard scales (or scutes) cover all but the leatherback, and the number and arrangement of these scutes can be used to determine the species.

Sea turtles come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. The olive ridley is usually less than 100 pounds, while the leatherback typically ranges from 650 to 1,300 pounds! The upper shell, or carapace, of each sea turtle species ranges in length, color, shape and arrangement of scales.

Sea turtles do not have teeth, but their jaws have modified “beaks” suited to their particular diet. They do not have visible ears but have eardrums covered by skin. They hear best at low frequencies, and their sense of smell is excellent. Their vision underwater is good, but they are nearsighted out of water. Their streamlined bodies and large flippers make them remarkably adapted to life at sea. However, sea turtles maintain close ties to land.

Females must come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand; therefore, all sea turtles begin their lives as tiny hatchlings on land. Research on marine turtles has uncovered many facts about these ancient creatures. Most of this research has been focused on nesting females and hatchlings emerging from the nest, largely because they are the easiest to find and study.

Thousands of sea turtles around the world have been tagged to help collect information about their growth rates, reproductive cycles and migration routes. After decades of studying sea turtles, much has been learned. However, many mysteries still remain.

 

Sea Turtles and Humans

Sea turtles have long fascinated people and have figured prominently in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. In the Miskito Cays off the eastern coast of Nicaragua, the story of a kind “Turtle Mother,” still lingers. Unfortunately, the spiritual significance of sea turtles has not saved them from being exploited for both food and for profit. Millions of sea turtles once roamed the earth’s oceans, but now only a fraction remain.

Why Care About Sea Turtles?

 

Reproduction

Only females come ashore to nest; males rarely return to land after crawling into the sea as hatchlings. Most females return to nest on the beach where they were born (natal beach). Nesting seasons occur at different times around the world. In the U.S., nesting occurs from April through October. Most females nest at least twice during each mating season; some may nest up to ten times in a season. A female will not nest in consecutive years, typically skipping one or two years before returning.

Nesting, Incubation and Emergence

 

Growth & Development

Researchers do not yet know how long baby turtles spend in the open sea, or exactly where they go. It is theorized that they spend their earliest, most vulnerable years floating around the sea in giant beds of sargasso weeds, where they do little more than eat and grow. Once turtles reach dinner-plate size, they appear at feeding grounds in nearshore waters. They grow slowly and take between 15 and 50 years to reach reproductive maturity, depending on the species. There is no way to determine the age of a sea turtle from its physical appearance. It is theorized that some species can live over 100 years.

General Behavior
Migration and Navigation Abilities

 

Status of the Species

The earliest known sea turtle fossils are about 150 million years old. In groups too numerous to count, they once navigated throughout the
world’s oceans. But in just the past 100 years, demand for turtle meat, eggs, skin and colorful shells has dwindled their populations. Destruction
of feeding and nesting habitats and pollution of the world’s oceans are all taking a serious toll on remaining sea turtle populations. Many breeding
populations have already become extinct, and entire species are being wiped out. There could be a time in the near future when sea turtles are just
an oddity found only in aquariums and natural history museums – unless action is taken today.

Green, leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles are classified as Endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, while the loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles are listed as Threatened. Internationally, green and loggerhead sea turtles are listed as Endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), while hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are listed as Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future), olive ridley seaz turtles are listed as Endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future), and leatherback sea turtles are listed as Vulnerable (facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future).

Conservation Strategies
What is Extinction?

 

Sea Turtle Classification

KINGDOM – Animalia

PHYLUM – Chordata

CLASS – Reptilia
Class Reptilia includes snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles. Reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded) and are vertebrates (have a spine). All
reptiles have scaly skin, breathe air with lungs, and have a three-chambered heart. Most reptiles lay eggs.

ORDER – Testudines
Order Testudines includes all turtles and tortoises. It is divided into three suborders. Pleurodira includes side-necked turtles, Cryptodira includes
all other living species of turtles and tortoises, and Amphichelydia includes all extinct species.

SUBORDER – Cryptodira
Suborder Cryptodira includes freshwater turtles, snapping turtles, tortoises, soft-shelled turtles, and sea turtles.

FAMILY – Cheloniidae or Dermochelyidae
Sea turtles fall into one of two families. Family Cheloniidae includes sea turtles which have shells covered with scutes (horny plates). Family
Dermochelyidae includes only one modern species of sea turtle, the leatherback turtle. Rather than a shell covered with scutes, leatherbacks have leathery skin.

GENUS and SPECIES
Most scientists currently recognize seven living species of sea turtles grouped into six genera.

 

How You Can Help

There are many things each of us can do to help sea turtles survive. First, we must remember that we share the oceans and the beaches with many other species. Second, become informed about the things that are killing sea turtles or destroying their habitat. Elected officials and other leaders are making decisions on issues that affect sea turtles almost every day. As an informed citizen, you have the power to influence the outcome of
these issues by making your voice heard. One way to keep informed about important issues is to join and support groups like the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which monitor issues and encourage their members to get involved.

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