The Hawksbill Turtle

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The Hawksbill Turtle
Eretmochelys imbricata

Shane Stoughton

GS 108 Oceanography
Suzanne Bannan
September 05, 2012
INTRODUCTION
Sea turtles were making their appearance about 65 million years ago, also the time that dinosaurs were being wiped out. These magnificent creatures did not succumb to extinction like their dinosaur counterparts primarily because they were submerged beneath the ocean when the asteroids struck Earth. This is one of main reasons I chose the specific sea turtle The Hawksbill Turtle.

The scientific name of The Hawksbill turtle is eretmochelys imbricata. This sea turtle gets its name from its hooked beak formed by its yellowish jaws. The Hawksbill Turtle is one of nature’s longest surviving creatures. This fact sparks the interest of many people into wanting to learn more about sea turtles. One unfortunate fact of life for this turtle is that they have always been creatures of high demand with their shells prized for their use in jewelry and beads and their bodies for meat. As with other sea turtles, one of the best ways to monitor the status of populations is to survey nesting beaches over many years. However, because hawksbills usually nest in small numbers and often on remote beaches, it is very difficult to estimate the population size.

Like many sea turtles, hawksbills are a critically endangered species due mostly to human impact. Hawksbill eggs are still eaten around the world despite the turtle’s international protected status, and they are often killed for their flesh and their stunning shells. (NatGeo 2012) The decline of this species is primarily due to human exploitation for tortoiseshell. While the legal hawksbill shell trade ended when Japan agreed to stop importing shell in 1993, a significant illegal trade continues. Other threats include loss or degradation of nesting habitat from coastal development and beach armoring; disorientation of hatchlings by beachfront lighting; nest predation by native and non-native predators; degradation of foraging habitat; marine pollution and debris; watercraft strikes; and incidental take from commercial fishing operations. (FWS 2012) The most important thing that can be done for this species is to make the public aware of their actions that harm the turtles and how they can change their ways. One surprising threat to sea turtles is the balloons that people let go. These balloons often float over the ocean before popping, and sea turtles can choke on the pieces of the balloon that fall into the water. Floating balloons look like jellyfish to sea turtles. Where can we find the Hawksbill Turtle?

When it comes to where sea turtles are found, it can vary from very shallow waters, to greater depths of the ocean. Hawksbills are found mainly in the tropical regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In the western hemisphere, nests have been reported as far north as Massachusetts, with some being present in the Long Island Sound. However, between the Carolinas and New Jersey, very few Hawksbill Turtles have been sighted, much less recorded. Hawksbill Turtles are also found around the Oceanic Islands, and the Indian Ocean.

Hawksbills use different habitats at different stages of their life cycle. It is widely believed that posthatchling hawksbills are pelagic and take shelter in weedlines around convergence zones. Sargassum and floating debris such as styrofoam, tar balls, and plastic bits (all common components of weedlines) are consistently found in the stomachs of youngsters that strand in Texas. It is likely the weedlines in the Gulf of Mexico serve as a habitat for hawksbill that enter the US waters. (Turtles 2005) After the turtle spends some time growing concealed in the weedlines, these are known as pelagic zones, the creature re-emerges back out in the oceanic waters, (oceanic zone) mostly off coastlines when they reach 20-25 cm in length. This is after the turtle has matured quite a bit considering that the turtles average...
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