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Hawksbill Sea Turtle Conservancy

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Conservancy | Science Animal Research |

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Taea Ho's insight:

1. Common Name: Hawksbill - named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak.
Scientific Name: Eretmochelys imbricata


2. Size: Adults are 2.5 to 3 feet in carapace length (71 - 89 cm).
Weight: Adults can weigh between 101 and 154 lbs (46 - 70 kg).


3. Diet: The hawksbill's narrow head and jaws shaped like a beak allow it to get food from crevices in coral reefs. They eat sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp.


4. Habitat: Typically found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries and lagoons.
Nesting: Nest at intervals of 2 to 4 years. Nests between 3 to 6 times per season. Lays an average 160 eggs in each nest. Eggs incubate for about 60 days.


5. Range: Most tropical of all sea turtles. Tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.


6. Threats to Survival: The greatest threat to hawksbill sea turtle is the harvesting for their prized shell, often referred to as "tortoise shell." In some countries the shell is still used to make hair ornaments, jewelry, and other decorative items.


7. Population Estimate*: 22,900 nesting females.

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Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) - Office of Protected Resources - NOAA Fisheries

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) - Office of Protected Resources - NOAA Fisheries | Science Animal Research |
Taea Ho's insight:

1. The hawksbill turtle is small to medium-sized compared to other sea turtle species.

Their head is elongated and tapers to a point, with a beak-like mouth that gives the species its name. The shape of the mouth allows the hawksbill turtle to reach into holes and crevices of coral reefs to find sponges, their primary food source as adults, and other invertebrates.

Hawksbill turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they have two pairs of prefrontal scales on the top of the head and each of the flippers usually has two claws.

2. Male hawksbills mature when they are about 27 inches (70 cm) long. Females mature at about 30 inches (80 cm). The ages at which turtles reach these lengths are unknown.

Female hawksbills return to the beaches where they were born (natal beaches) every 2-3 years to nest. They usually nest high up on the beach under or in the beach/dune vegetation. They commonly nest on pocket beaches, with little or no sand. They nest at night, and they nest about every 14-16 days during the nesting season. The nesting season varies with locality, but in most locations nesting occurs sometime between April and November. A female hawksbill generally lays 3-5 nests per season, which contain an average of 130 eggs. Eggs incubate for around 2 months.

3. Hawksbill turtles use different habitats at different stages of their life cycle, but are most commonly associated with healthy coral reefs.


habitat loss of coral reef communitiesharvest of their eggs and meatcommercial exploitation (historically, but still permitted in some parts of the world)increased recreational and commercial use of nesting beaches in the Pacificincidental capture in fishing geargeneral threats to marine turtles

5. Critical habitat was designated in 1998 for hawksbill turtles in coastal waters surrounding Mona and Monito Islands, Puerto Rico.

6. Hawksbill turtles are circumtropical, usually occurring from 30° N to 30° S latitude in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and associated bodies of water.

7. The largest nesting population of hawksbills appears to occur in Australia. Approximately 2,000 hawksbills nest on the northwest coast of Australia and about 6,000 to 8,000 off the Great Barrier Reef each year (Spotila 2004). Additionally, about 2,000 hawksbills nest each year in Indonesia and 1,000 in the Republic of Seychelles (Spotila 2004).

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Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata

Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata | Science Animal Research |
Find out what's known about Hawksbill Sea Turtles including their world range and habitats, feeding behaviors, life history, ecology, reproduction, and conservation status.
Taea Ho's insight:

1. Hawksbill sea turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata (Linnaeus, 1766), are beautiful small to medium-sized sea turtles that take their species name (imbricata) from the overlapping plates on their upper shell.

2. The scutes of the plastron of Atlantic hawksbills are usually clear yellow, with little or no dark pigmentation. The soft skin on the ventral side is cream or yellow and may be pinkish-orange in mature individuals. The scales of the head and forelimbs are dark brown or black with sharply defined yellow borders. There are typically four pairs of inframarginal scales. The head is elongate and tapers sharply to a point. The lower jaw is V-shaped.

3. Although sea turtles cannot withdraw their heads into their shells, the adults are protected from predators by their shells, large size and thick scaly skin on their heads and necks.

4. Sea turtles are some of the largest turtles in the world and live in almost every ocean of the world. Their smooth shells and paddlelike flippers help them speed through the water as fast as 24 kph. These long-distance travelers have been known to swim up to 4,828 km.


5. The blood of sea turtles can deliver oxygen efficiently to body tissues even at the pressures encountered during diving. During routine activity green and loggerhead turtles dive for about 4 to 5 minutes and surface to breathe for 1 to 3 seconds. A female loggerhead tracked at sea made up to 500 dives every 12 hours.

6. Sea turtles can rest or sleep underwater for several hours at a time but submergence time is much shorter while diving for food or to escape predators. Breath-holding ability is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles drown in shrimp trawls and other fishing gear within a relatively short time.

7. Also found around the Oceanic Islands and Indian Ocean. Hawksbill turtles are most commonly found in coral reefhabitats where sponges, a food source for hawksbills, grow on solid substrate.

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