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All About Sea Turtles

This week we will be learning about Sea Turtles. It has been a crazy week around the globe but we can all learn a little something from these little local neighbors.

Let's start by watching this video from Ted Ed about the miraculous journey of a baby sea turtle. The are up against predators, tough conditions and even us humans (if you have been to Publix this week looking for toilet paper, you know what we mean), but, regardless of the challenges they persevere.

First, what is scientific classification?

It is the way scientists use to categorize and organize all life on Earth. It can help us determine how similar or different living organisms are to one other.

"Biological classification works a bit like the library does. Inside the library, books are divided up into certain areas: the kids books in one section, the adult books in another, and the teen books in another section. Within each of those sections, there will be more divisions like fiction, non-fiction. Within those sections there will be even more divisions such as mystery, science fiction, and romance novels in the fiction section. Finally you will get down to a single book. Biological classification works the same way. At the top there are the kingdoms. This is sort of like the adult section vs. the kids' section. The kingdoms divide up life into big groups like plants and animals. Under the kingdoms are more divisions which would be like fiction, non-fiction, mystery, etc. Finally, you get to the species, which is sort of like getting to the book in the library. " There are seven major levels of classification:

1. Kingdom

2. Phylum

3. Class

4. Order

5. Family

6. Genus

7. Species

Here is where a Sea Turtle falls...

Class - Reptilia According to Sea World, "Reptiles are a class of cold-blooded vertebrates - their body temperature varies with their environment. Reptiles include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles.Reptiles have scaly skin, breathe air with lungs, and have a three-chambered heart.Most reptiles lay eggs, although some produce eggs that hatch internally."

Order - Testudines This order includes all turtles and tortoises.

Suborder - Cryptodira This suborder is divided into 3 suborders:

1. Pleurodira (side-necked turtles)

2. Cryptodira (freshwater turtles, snapping turtles, tortoises, soft-shelled turtles, and sea turtles)

3. Amphichelydia (a suborder of turtles that is now extinct)

Families - Cheloniidae & Dermochelyidae

1. Cheloniidae includes amost all sea turtles with scutes (horny plates) covering their shells.

2. Dermochelyidae are scute-less turtles with only the leatherback turtle falling into this category. A leatherback sea turtle is covered with leathery skin and is the only marine turtle whose backbone is not attached to the inside of its shell.

Genus, species 1. The Green (Chelonia mydas mydas) and The Black or Eastern Pacific green turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii)

2. The loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

4. Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

5. Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)

6. Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate)

7. The Flatback (Natator depressus)

8. The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)

Sea Turtles love warm water. Most adult turtles like shallow, coastal water, bays, lagoons and estuaries. However, they can also be found in the open sea.

Some sea turtle populations nest and feed in the same general areas; others travel great distances:

  • Green sea turtle usually stay along the coasts from nesting to feeding area. However, some populations travel 1,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, from Ascension Island where they nest to Brazilian to eat.

  • Loggerheads leave their normal eating area to travel a few thousand kilometers just to lay eggs.

  • Kemp's Ridley turtles follow two major routes in the Gulf of Mexico. Rarely do they travel off this path.

  • Olive Ridleys often travel in groups from the Eastern Pacific to the Indian Oceans.

  • Hawksbill are the un-predictable ones. Researchers are still trying to find their pattern.

  • Flatbacks move from their nesting grounds on the northern coast of Australia and its islands to feeding grounds in shallow waters of northeastern Australia.

  • Leatherbacks take the farthest trips of all sea turtles. They have been found more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beaches.

Have a question about sea turtles? So do scientists! See what mysteries are of foremost interest to researchers as they are trying to better understand these ancient and imperiled species.

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