Helping preserve our oceans also means protecting sea turtle habitat. The conservation status of all 7 types of sea turtles are considered endangered with some even classified as critically endangered.
We want to give this special species some extra attention so we are hoping that you are already asking; when is world turtle day? Leading up to the special day, let’s practice some awareness about the threats to the ocean and its wonderful marine wildlife.
7 Species of Sea Turtles
How many sea turtle species do you know? Below we list all 7 types of sea turtles with both their common name and Latin name.
1. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)
The green sea turtle has been on listed on the endangered species act since 1978 but their populations are still in danger in the US. There is some good news, though. Green turtles have more stable numbers in Costa Rica and Suriname thanks to research programs and nesting sites.
An interesting turtle fact about green sea turtles is that they cannot retract their head inside their shell. It is also the only herbivore species despite being one of the largest types of sea turtles.
2. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
The population of hawksbill turtles is difficult to determine because they are solitary nesters. Hawksbill turtles are most commonly seen in Yemen, Oman, and sometimes Northern Australia but have remained on the US endangered species act since 1970.
Current estimates of Hawksbill turtles is as low as 8000 females which puts them on the IUCN red list. Coral reef destruction is one of the contributing factors to their decline since that is their prime feeding location.
3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta)
Loggerhead turtles are the most common turtle species in the US. They can be found along the coast of Florida but there are even larger populations on Masirah Island, Oman, the Caribbean, Turkey, Japan, and Panama.
Named for their large heads, these sea turtles mainly feed on sea urchins and hard shell sea creatures. They play an essential role in seagrass beds and coral reef ecosystems which is why their protection is so important for the environment.
4. Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea)
Olive Ridley turtles are seen along the Pacific Coast, mainly in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. However, the largest nesting site of ridley turtles is on the Indian Ocean; Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary in India – the average number of nesting females is nearly 400,000.
The olive ridley turtles are named for the green color of their shell. They are one of the more common turtle species but low breeding numbers and habitat destruction still put them on the endangered species list.
5. Flatback Turtle (Natator Depressa)
The flatback sea turtle is one of the most delicate among its peers. They have a much softer shell which is flat instead of rounded and this makes them easier prey.
They are also found in very few places, mainly in the Gulf of Papua, New Guinea, and sometimes on North Australian shores. This turtle species does not make any long journeys which explains their limited geography.
6. Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys Coriacea)
Leatherbacks are like the Zeus of marine turtles because of their large build, deep dives, and long-range in the waters. Sadly, they are also one of the most endangered, nearing extinction.
There is some hope for the leatherback turtle on the coasts of Florida but Mexico, Costa Rica and Malaysia are seeing very dramatic declines every year. This is mainly due to the consumption of their eggs and the high numbers that end up as fishing bycatch.
7. Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys Kempii)
Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the closest to extinction and can only be found on the beaches of Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. Conservation groups are working hard to increase the population and there has been some success since the introduction of TEDs or Turtle Excluder Devices on shrimp trawls.
As the rarest sea turtle, it is very important to protect their nests. With so few adults left, it is an uphill battle to get their numbers up. When buying gifts for turtle lovers, consider a brand that donates to a turtle charity involved with protecting the Kemp’s Ridley.
Frequently Asked Questions about Sea Turtles
How many sea turtles are there?
There are 7 species of sea turtles swimming in waters all around the world. Current world population estimates are at approximately 6.5 million in total but they are one of the more difficult animals to count.
Are all 7 species of sea turtles endangered?
All 7 species of oceanic turtles are endangered. The Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherbacks, and Flatbacks are the most critical. You can contribute to their conservation by adopting a sea turtle.
How do you identify sea turtles?
You can different sea turtles from other types of turtles by their flippers and often flatter shells. You can identify the specific species by looking at the color of their shell, their size, and the imprint their flippers leave on the beach.