IUCN threat status:

Endangered (EN)

Comprehensive Description

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 Caretta caretta has a distinctive large, yellow-orange head (hence its name), which is extremely broad posteriorly. It has dark brown eyes, a parrot-like beak and extremely powerful yellow jaws. The flippers are proportionately small, and the body length is up to 1.5 m; 0.3-0.5 m in juveniles. Both the carapace and flippers are reddish-brown in colour. The underside of the body is yellow. It commonly weighs up to 180 kg.This species is almost entirely carnivorous using their powerful jaw to crack open crustaceans and shellfish, as well as feeding on sponges, jellyfish and occasionally algae (Bustard, 1972). Sexual maturity can be reached as late as 37 years old. Females nest 3 - 5 times in one breeding season, returning to breed every couple of years. The female lays her eggs high up on specific tropical beaches. This can lead to predation from native species as well as humans. Hatchlings follow the light of the moon to the ocean. Light pollution from land can confuse the hatchlings diverting them away from the ocean resulting in desiccation, increased risk of predation and, hence, death. The hatchlings and small juveniles are pelagic, drifting amongst rafts of sargassum (brown algae) and flotsam of the open ocean before migrating to shallower coastal waters. Juveniles have small spikes along the spine of the shell.  

Caretta is classified as Endangered (EN - A abd) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List 2002, listed on Appendix I on Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), Appendix I and II of the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) 1979, Appendix II of the Bern Convention 1979, and Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive. All five species of turtles are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994 (Anon. 1999(ii)). This species is particularly susceptible to: bycatch from shrimp trawlers; ingestion of marine debris, and predation on eggs.


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©  The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Source: Marine Life Information Network


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