How much do you really know about turtles?
I’m Willie and I’m an oceans campaigner here at Greenpeace.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching turtles from the bow of Greenpeace ships, and many of my colleagues have encountered these peaceful ocean wanderers far out at sea in the Mediterranean Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
I’ve also learned a lot of interesting and surprising facts about these enigmatic creatures, and I wanted to share a few of my favourites with you:
11. Sea turtles are ancient
Like, really old. Not just that they live long, but they have existed on earth for an incredible 150 million years. Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, but the turtles are still with us!
10. The Leatherback turtle is the world’s fastest moving-reptile
Cumbersome and sluggish on land, turtles seem as slow as their tortoise cousins do. But in the sea the hydrodynamism of the leatherback turtle means it can rack up an impressive swimming speed of 35km per hour!
9. The Leatherback turtle might also be the world’s biggest reptile
It really depends how you measure, but the leatherback turtle can grow to the size of a double bed! That means it vies with the komodo dragon and the salt-water crocodile for the title of biggest reptile (unless you count Nessie or Godzilla…).
8. Sea turtles have built-in GPS as standard
Turtles are true ocean wanderers, they travel thousands of miles across entire oceans to feed and breed. But luckily they have an inbuilt navigational system that allows female turtles to return precisely to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.
7. Leatherback turtles love to eat jelly
I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly fact: leatherback turtles are ‘gelatinovores’. That means they eat jellyfish! Their throats are especially adapted to slurp down the slippery stinging jellies, with backwards facing spikes making it a one-way jelly journey. The bad news is that underwater a plastic bag can look exactly like a jelly.
6. Green turtles are vegetarians
Different turtles like different food – some crunch on shellfish, some snack on sponges – but the green turtle likes nothing better than grazing on sea grass or seaweed. Oddly, they only become vegetarian as adults, baby green turtles will eat anything (presumably except Brussel sprouts! Blergh!).
5. A turtle’s sex is determined by temperature
Whether sea turtle hatchlings are born male or female depends on the temperature of where they happen to be located in the nest. If it’s warmer than the “pivotal temperature” (28 – 29 degrees Celsius), the turtle is born female, if it’s colder, male.
4. Baby turtles are unbelievably cute
This is a fact. If you don’t believe me – go look at some pictures of baby turtles.
3. Male turtles never go home
Sea turtles only return to land to lay eggs, so the male turtles never come home (they also never call, they never write…).
2. Baby turtles face an obstacle course of predators & go on a swimming frenzy
Life is tough for baby turtles. They hatch en masse then need to run the gauntlet to get to the sea past hungry crabs, birds, lizards and lots of others. But that’s just the start of it, baby turtles know the odds are against them so when they hit the water they swim, swim, swim as far and fast as they can from the shore for days on end. Not bad for their first dip.
1. Sea turtles talk to each other before they hatch
People used to think that turtles didn’t make noises. But now we know that’s just not true. In fact, sea turtles talk to each other before they’ve even hatched. While still in their individual eggs, turtles communicate with each other by making sounds. Researchers believe they do this in order to coordinate their hatching times (now, if that’s not adorable…).
Sea turtles really are amazing animals. Despite these fun facts the reality is there is still a lot about turtles we simply don’t know yet.
What we do know is that sea turtles are in danger across the world. Six out of seven species are endangered or vulnerable to extinction. Turtles’ nesting beaches are being destroyed by coastal developments, their ocean homes are increasingly busy and polluted, and they are ensnared in fishing nets and hooks by destructive fishing.
Greenpeace is working hard across the globe to save precious places that matter for turtles like the Great Barrier Reef. We are challenging the global tuna industry and other destructive fishing, and tackling global threats like climate change, and the growing scourge of plastic pollution. We can only defend our oceans and their stupendous sea turtles with your help.
Your generous monthly donations are what funds our work – and thanks to you, we’re going to make sure that turtles can keep on doing what they do best – being turt-ally awesome!
(If you’re not currently a donor, but would like to be, simply click here to join now)
But turtles aren’t the only animals with interesting stories to tell. Follow the links below for some equally extraordinary facts about…