If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting our green sea turtle named Friday, you will surely know that they are some of the most impressive marine animals out there. Many of us know that we have a shell to protect them, we can hold their breath for many hours and live as long as a human can. But there are many other fascinating facts that you may not have heard of. Read on to find out some of the more unusual, lesser-known facts that will impress your friends (and hope your next family quiz will have some sea turtle-related questions).
Have you ever seen a female turtle lay eggs in the sand? It is an incredible sight! They dig a hole in the sand with their massive fins and cry to get rid of excess salt in their bodies. As soon as their 110 or so eggs are laid and covered again, the females return to the ocean.
In the following months, the temperature of the clutch is determined by the sand that surrounds the eggs. When the temperature is warm, usually above 31 degrees Celsius, the pups are female. If the sand is cooler than 27 degrees Celsius, they are male. The babies eventually hatch and shuffle towards the ocean, using the glow of the horizon and the reflection of the moonlight on the waves to guide them.
Groups of sea turtles
If a group of starfish is called a constellation and a group of sharks is called a shower, then how can you name a group of sea turtles? Well, I recently discovered that we can call a group of sea turtles either a bale or an arribada. Not as catchy as the other examples I’ve given, but what is interesting is that arribada is the Spanish term for “arrival”. As solitary animals, sea turtles are rarely seen in large groups, with the exception that thousands of female Olive Ridley turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
Sea turtles have several long, sharp spines in their throats known as papillae. They look like they shouldn’t belong to such a beautiful, gentle creature that seems more suited to a predator (or maybe even a Halloween costume). However, these spines provide a great benefit for turtles at dinner, as they make it difficult for slippery prey to escape and also act as a filter for them.
When turtles eat their food, they swallow a large amount of salt water and often throw it up after a meal. However, the spikes allow the water to be expelled while also acting as a barrier to the recently consumed food. A fantastic adjustment, but bad news for the valued 1/3 sea turtle that has plastic in its stomach. The good news, however, is that there has never been such a strong plastic pollution riot as it is today. Conservationists around the world come together to help resolve the crisis. There is a wealth of information out there to help us all practice pro-oceanic behavior. So, check out some simple, effective changes we can make by reading our blog on Five Easy Ways To Be Kids For The Ocean.
Writing inspired me to find out more cool stuff about these majestic reptiles! If you’d like to do the same, share your discoveries with us by sending us a message on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.
This blog was written by Karen Willcocks – our school officer at the National Marine Aquarium.