How Long Do Sea Turtles Live?

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Sea turtle on coral reef

If you saw Disney's Finding Nemo, you probably remember that the turtle Nemo's dad meets is "150 years old and still young". Depending on the species, that may be possible. However, the actual sea turtle lifespan is not known for certain. That's because it is usually longer than most research projects last, making it difficult to measure accurately. Most estimates put it between 50-80 years with many scientists acknowledging that some species can live over a century.

Sea Turtle Life Cycle
The life cycle begins with a female laying eggs on a beach and covering them with sand. Between six weeks and two months later, the hatchlings make their way to the surface of the beach and head into the water. After that, they spend the next ten to fifty years as juveniles. This period is often referred to as the "lost years" because scientists find that the turtles' movements are difficult to monitor, and their location is hard to pinpoint.

After this time, turtles reach adulthood and are able to reproduce for at least another ten years. While adults spend almost their entire lives in the ocean, they migrate to beaches to nest. Females come ashore and lay eggs, and the cycle begins again.

Oldest Sea Turtle
Scientists have discovered fossils that show turtles have been roaming the oceans for at least 120 million years. And as of 2014, a sea turtle in captivity at the Guangzhou Aquarium in China is said to be the oldest at 400 years old. However, just as it 's hard to answer the question, "how long does a sea turtle live", it is not possible to determine the age of the oldest found in the wild.


Sea Turtle On Red Macro-algae Bed

Why Do Sea Turtles Live So Long?
How do turtles live so long? There are theories, but no proven causes. One theory is that their naturally slow metabolism offers a benefit that many other animals don't have. Their cold-bloodedness, the fact that their hearts beat more slowly, and that their cells burn and die more slowly means they can tolerate more environmental changes. They also only need a fraction of the food that other animals need and many diseases that affect other marine life have no effect on them.

Another explanation of the species' longevity is that it is a result of evolution, offering a reproductive advantage in an unusually harsh environment. A long lifespan provides more opportunities to procreate. While adults have natural protection from predators because of their shells, they are particularly vulnerable as hatchlings until the shell hardens. Once they reach the ocean, sea turtles are also in danger of being caught in fishing nets. The thought is that the species has evolved to live longer to try to reproduce as much as possible.

Whatever the reason, some speculate that the sea turtle's long lifespan could hold the key to extending life in other organisms, including humans.

Did you know that sea turtles are endangered? Honor one of these peaceful ocean dwellers today with a handcrafted turtle ring and we will give up to 25% to conservation.