Cheloniidae – Modern sea turtles

Spend their entire lives in seas where they breed, feed, and even sleep

A remarkable group that has traversed the world’s oceans for over 100 million years. These creatures are strong, long-distance swimmers, often celebrated for their majestic presence and grace in the water. Sea turtles possess a natural, gentle demeanor and are known for their extensive lifespans, with some individuals living up to a century or more under the right conditions.

Despite their ancient lineage and resilience, sea turtles face a precarious future. With changes in global climates, habitat destruction, and human interference, these once-thriving reptiles are now facing the threat of extinction within mere decades.

All sea turtle species, except the flatback, are known to frequent North American waters. Each species is recognized under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered, reflecting the significant risks they encounter, such as accidental capture in fishing gear, poaching, and pollution.

The life cycle of a sea turtle is an epic journey that begins with a struggle from the moment of hatching. As hatchlings emerge from their eggs on sandy beaches, they must trek to the ocean, evading a gauntlet of predators. Those that reach the relative safety of the water continue to face challenges, from finding food to navigating vast and often hostile oceanic environments.

Human cultures have long held sea turtles in high regard, imbuing them with mythological significance and reverence. In numerous cultural creation myths worldwide, sea turtles are depicted as the bearers of the world, carrying the Earth on their backs across the endless celestial sea.

Sea turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination, where the temperature at which eggs are incubated will determine the hatchlings’ sex. This phenomenon makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change, as altered sand temperatures can skew sex ratios.