Sea turtles have been found in all areas around the world except for polar regions. However, they generally prefer tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions of North, Central, and South America, India, South Africa, and Australia. They spend most of their lives in the ocean, but nest on beaches and they migrate long distances to feed. In fact, they have been known to cross entire oceans to forage for food.
The specific area where sea turtles prefer to live depends on the species and age. Females nest on beaches and hatchlings make their way to the surface of the sand and into the water. When they live in the ocean as juveniles, they spend their first few years in the open sea and then move to more protected bays and nearshore waters. A sea turtle habitat also must have the food sea turtles prefer to eat. Some species feed on mollusks and live in areas where crabs and abundant while others live in areas where sea grass or sponges are common. Check out this cool video documenting their migration:
Green Sea Turtles
Green sea turtles are rarely spotted on land, but when they are, they are typically females on beaches in the southeast US, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Virgin Island. These areas often shut down parts of beaches to make way for turtles just to help ensure they don't go extinct. Eastern Pacific green turtles, however, have been observed sunbathing on land alongside seals.
Hatchlings make their way to the sand surface and toward water. It is this time in a green sea turtle's life that is the most dangerous. Numerous predators including crabs and seagulls are ready to prey on hatchlings as they scamper to the water.
Once a hatchling enters the ocean, they rarely return to land. They undertake lengthy migrations between feeding sites where seagrass and algae are plentiful and sandy beaches where they nest. During mating season, they spend time in shallow waters. They always return to their preferred breeding site.
Leather Back Sea Turtles
Leatherback turtles have the widest global distribution of all species. They are seen in tropic and temperate waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are even found in the Mediterranean Sea and have been known to move as far north as Canada and Norway and as south as New Zealand.
They undertake the longest migration of any sea turtle, traveling an average 3,700 miles each way. They mate at sea and then like other species, the females move to shore to deposit eggs in the sand.
When they aren't nesting, leatherbacks are primarily found in open ocean. They are known to be active in water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and are the only reptile known to be so active at such a low temperature. This probably due to their unique adaptations that allow them to generate and retain body heat including a large body size, a thick layer of body fat, and the ability to change swimming activity and blood flow.
Because leatherback turtles prefer to eat jellyfish and other soft-bodied invertebrates, they are usually found in areas high in these organisms.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Loggerhead turtles are found in coastal areas with a tropical or subtropical climate. Their habitat can sometimes extend to more temperate waters, however, when in search for food. They are typically seen in the Atlantic Ocean anywhere between Argentina and Nova Scotia with high populations in North Carolina's barrier islands and the Florida Keys. The North American loggerheads migrate to the Bahamas in the winter.
Hatchlings are usually seen in warm ocean currents among flotsam while adults prefer rock outcroppings and reefs where their favorite foods (conchs, clams, crabs, and sponges can be found). Like other species, they undertake long migrations to return to favorite nesting places. During migration, they spend time in the open sea eating jellyfish, floating mollusks, squids, and flying fish. Females nest on land, laying eggs two to five times per season.
Where Do Turtles Sleep?
Sea turtles can sleep in a variety of places including at the surface while in deep water or under rocks in water near the shore. Divers have reported seeing green turtles, for example, sleeping in ledges in rocks and reefs. Hatchlings usually sleep floating on the surface with their front flippers folded over the top of their backs.
Those turtles that sleep submerged under the water, under ledges or on the bottom of the sea, can hold their breath for several hours.
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