green sea turtle

Happy World Turtle Day!

Turtles have been on this planet for over 200 million years. However, in a relatively short time (since the rise of humans) they have become threatened – 44% of known turtle species are officially considered critically endangered or vulnerable to extinction.

Today, 23 May, is World Turtle Day. We’ve dived in to The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians and discovered some amazing facts about these ancient creatures – what’s your favorite fact about turtles from the five below?

  1. A turtle’s armor shell is unique in the animal kingdom, made of two parts (the back and front) it generally comprises around 50-60 bones.
  2. Most adult turtles and tortoises have a shell length of at least 13cm (5in). The world’s smallest species are the Speckled cape tortoise, Flattened musk turtle, and Bog turtle, whereas the largest living turtle is the Leatherback seaturtle, whose shell reaches up to 244cm (96in).
  3. Although turtles are slow on land, due to their massive shells, when they enter the water they can reach speeds of over 30km/hour (18.6mph).
  4. Some species of turtles migrate over 4,500km (that’s 2,800 miles) to make their nests – which is like travelling the length of the United Kingdom 4.5 times. Whereas others have nesting frenzies, when over 200,000 females nest on the same small beach over two days.
  5. Some aquatic species of turtles don’t just breathe using their lungs – some can also respire through their skin, the lining of the throat, and through thin-walled sacs, or bursae, in the cloaca.

Images: 1) Squirtle, by mem0. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr. 2) Turtle, by Hiroaki Home. Public domain via Pixabay.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area under the U.S. flag, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean  - an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.

The extensive coral reefs found in Papahānaumokuākea - truly the rainforests of the sea - are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green turtle (pictured above) and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. On less than six square miles of land over 14 million seabirds representing 22 species breed and nest. Land areas also provide a home for four species of bird found nowhere else in the world, including the world’s most endangered duck, the Laysan duck.

Photo: Mark Sully

Photo of the Day: Art in Motion

Photographer note: I was able to observe and photograph a green sea turtle gracefully swimming ahead of me. This turtle came from a seagrass bed and cruised over a coral reef.

Photo by Julie Suess (Lansing, Illinois); Turks and Caicos Islands

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