Saturday, 21 May 2016

Hawksbill sea turtle

The hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, is a reptile that usually lives in tropical environments of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Like other sea turtles, these are solitary for most of their lives and only meet to mate. Females nest every 2-3 years on the exact same beach where they themselves were hatched. Hawksbills nest at night, laying 3-6 clutches per season (April to November) at 2 week intervals. Each clutch size is about 140 eggs each in the Florida Keys. When full grown they do not get larger than about 45 inches in shell length and 150 pounds, unlike other sea turtles which are usually a little larger. These sea turtles generally stay in shallower waters that are no more than 21 meters deep in coral reefs, lagoons, rocky areas, and shallow coastal areas. When there is an absence of coral reefs hawksbills can be found in mangrove areas and estuaries as well. It was common to see the hawksbill at Cheeka Rocks when we did because it is such a large coral reef environment. The name Hawksbill originates from the appearance of their beak-like mouth that resembles that of the bird. This narrow pointed “beak” is used to feed on their favorite food, sponges, which are often squeezed into small spaces on the reef. They are also known for their distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that look like a serrated edge. Sadly their beautiful coloring and markings on their shells make them highly valuable and are sold on the market for jewelry and other goods, despite the fact that the hawksbill sea turtle is on the endangered species list. There are also other threats to this beautiful species, like the loss of their habitat. As we learned throughout this past week, coral reef communities are declining due to human degradation and also different environmental changes caused by global warming. Without the coral reefs, the hawksbills lose their primary food source and habitat and force them to travel to other areas. Marine pollution, watercraft strikes, and bycatch always pose threats to marine life in general, but especially to the hawksbill sea turtle because they are endangered. 

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