The most memorable moment for many people that visit the Great Barrier Reef is meeting a sea turtle. The graceful sea turtles thrive on the Great Barrier Reef and 6 of the 7 species make it their home. Any time you go out to the Great Barrier Reef for a snorkel, you have an excellent chance of having your own encounter.
About the Sea Turtle
Sea Turtles have a hard shell which is called the carapace, four flippers that are like paddles and lungs for breathing air. The young marine turtles live and feed in the ocean. The growth of sea turtles is very slow and almost at the age of 30 and 50 they are mature. They usually live in one place unless they are able to migrate for breeding which is oftentimes very far away from the feeding area to the nesting spots.
Sea Turtles have been around for over 100 million years . They have been a part of the tradition and culture of many religions all over the world.
Species of Sea Turtles
As mentioned, there are seven species of marine turtle out of which following six are found in the water of Great Reef System.
Among all the marine turtle species, the most abundant ones are Loggerhead turtle. They are bigger in size but have soft shells, massive head, and reddish- brown shell and strong jaws. This species of turtle is primarily carnivores and occasionally eats seaweed and sargassum. Females of this species usually return to the beach after laying eggs. Their average life span is more than fifty years.
The second largest species after the loggerhead is the Green Turtle. The green color of these sea turtles is not due to their shell but due to the greenish color of their cartilage and fat. Like another turtle this species also migrates from hatched areas to the feeding areas after laying eggs. Unlike others they are herbivorous. The dangerous time period in Green Turtle’s life is the voyage from a nest to sea because in this span multiple predators in this short scamper prey on hatchling.
The most beautiful among all turtle are Hawksbill turtles. Their beauty lies in their colorful shells. They are usually of 25-35 inches in length as compared to other sea turtles they are small in size. They are mainly carnivores. It has been proved after research that the largest hawksbill population in the world is in Milman Island Queensland, Australia.
The largest living reptile and the largest turtle in turtle family is the well-known Sea Turtle Leatherback turtle. They can be distinguished from other turtle species easily due to their leathery carapace and long front flippers. Their size can easily reach up to 180cm, and 500kg in weight. They usually eat soft-bodied animals, such as pyrosomes , jellyfish, and salps. Dermochelys coriacea is its scientific name.
Olive Ridley turtle:
The smallest of all marine turtle is Olive Ridley turtle. They are named olive ridley due to their shell color which is olive green. Lepidochelys olivaceous is its scientific name. Their adult average length is 2 to 2.5 feet. Their head is small and has strong jaws. They normally eat shrimp, fish, crabs, mollusks, and tunicates. Adult Olive Ridley weighs between 77 and 100 pounds.
The most mysterious turtle species is known as Flatback turtle. They are 3 feet in length and weighs 200 pounds. This flatback turtle is carnivorous. Their corpse is of yellow- gray or green- gray color while the underside is pale yellow.
All turtle family members are facing serious threats of their lives. Pollution, feral pigs, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs, accidental drowning in fishing gear, dogs and goannas are major threats on them. Under various State and Territory legislation and the Commonwealth’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 all main species are protected in Australia.
For more information about sea turtles or if you want to donate money to help save them, I recommend checking out http://www.cairnsturtlerehab.org.au as they are the largest sea turtle volunteer organization on the Great Barrier Reef.