The Life of a Sea Turtle
Dating back to the Jurassic era, sea turtles have been around for at least 110 million years, making them one of Earth's oldest living species. As their name indicates, these turtles live in the sea, save for in polar regions, which are too cold for their bodies to handle.
The largest of the sea turtles is the leatherback, which can get up to 9 feet in length. The leatherback also is the only one who doesn't have a hard shell; instead, the leatherback has bony plates located beneath its leathery skin.
It can take sea turtles several decades to reach sexual maturity, and they might then have to travel thousands of miles to find breeding sites. Determination of a sea turtle's sex depends on the temperature a hatchling is produced in. Warmer temperatures tend to produce female hatchlings.
Why Sea Turtles are Awesome
Sea turtles have long been studied and respected by some humans. There are many Native American and Latin American sea turtle myths, including that of the "Turtle Mother." Unfortunately, sea turtles have a long history of being killed and used by humans for food or for their shells. There are many coastal areas that have laws prohibiting the killing of sea turtles, but some tourist locations trap, kill, and sell turtle meat and shells. The selfish interactions of some humans have sadly led to the sea turtle becoming an endangered species.
People who love sea turtles understand that these beautiful creatures are worth saving for many reasons. Not only are they generally gentle and gorgeous, but they are crucial for the ecosystem. Unhatched nests make for good sources of nutrients in otherwise nutrient-deficient beach environments. A large population of nesting sea turtles generally guarantees the flourishing of a beach environment. Sea turtles also help to control populations of jellyfish, including stinging jellyfish, since these are a main staple of the sea turtles' diet.
Those of us who love to go diving in shallow areas off the coast delight in seeing these magnificent, non-threatening (unless you put your fingers too close to their mouths) creatures in their natural habitat. Tourists in Latin America can participate in a non-profit conversation tour and educational programs that help with sea turtle conservation and research, thereby saving sea turtles from death at the hands of humans.