Since our scuba dives in the Philippines, I am intrigued by the magical appearance of turtles. I have since read a lot about their biology, the different types of turtles and the threats they face. On Nurtured by Nature I will share this information, as well as new knowledge I hope to gain during my studies, in the form of 7 posts. Each post containing general and turtle-specific insights. This time the Loggerhead Turtle!
General – nomenclature and classification
There are seven different species of sea turtles and many more species of land and freshwater turtles. In America, all of these species are called turtles, which makes it a bit complicated to know what animal we are talking about. In the UK the land-dwelling turtles are called Tortoise and the freshwater species are Terrapin. I love the Spanish way of describing them best though: tortuga marina, tortuga de río and tortuga terrestre.
So, tortuga marina. Turtles are reptiles from the order of Testudines. Their suborder is called Cryptodira, referring to their ability to retract their head into their shells. (The other suborder of Pleurodira, which folds their heads sideways, consists of only some land-dwelling species.) Within the suborder of Cryptodira there are many families and species, but only two living families of sea turtles: Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae.
Class | Order | Suborder | Superfamily
Reptilia | Testudines | Cryptodira | Chelonioidea
- Family Cheloniidae (green sea turtles and relatives)
- Family Dermochelyidae (leatherback turtles)
The loggerhead sea turtle is called so because of its relatively big head and snapping jaws. Although some species might be easy to recognize, as a newbie it is very difficult to distinguish between let’s say a Loggerhead and a Green turtle. The official way of identifying a turtle species is by examining its shell and pattern. But let’s leave that for another time, as it involves a lot of new information (also for me).
As you see in the pictures below, the loggerhead has a relatively big head, but the most outstanding is its thick neck. The green turtle has a more slender neckline. Also, the carapace (shell) of the loggerhead seems a bit retracted near the head and the overall hydrodynamic shape of the turtle is less flat.
The loggerhead turtle is primarily carnivorous, feeding on shellfish, invertebrates, and jellyfish. Its powerful jaws allow him to crack open clams and sea urchins for instance. Loggerheads are known to be the slowest swimmers of all sea turtles. They can grow up to 48 inches (120 cm) and weigh up to 400 pounds (180 kg). On the IUCN red list, the Caretta caretta is marked as Vulnerable in 2017, as the population is decreasing steadily. Luckily the Loggerhead is still the most common sea turtle in the Mediterranean, as it is seen on the beaches of Turkey and Greece.
I hope this species is continued to be allowed safe nesting on these beaches and that local communities refrain from making hatching period a tourist attraction.
- Seaworld Parks and Entertainment on Scientific classification of sea turtles
- Turtles and tides – identifying sea turtle species
- Animal planet on loggerhead sea turtles
- IUCN red list of threatened species: Caretta caretta
- Sea turtle inc. on loggerhead turtles
- WWF loggerhead turtle