Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are truly a global species found in temperate and tropical seas worldwide. They have survived in the seas for more than 200 million years and are among a small group of reptiles that depend on the sea for survival.

The jaw structure of the different sea turtle species is adapted for their diet. The finely serrated jaws of the green sea turtle are adapted for its vegetarian diet of sea grasses and algae. A hawksbill has a narrow head with jaws meeting at an acute angle, with which it gets sponges, tunicates and shrimps from crevices in coral reefs. The jaws of loggerhead and ridley turtles are adapted for crushing and grinding crabs, shrimps, mollusks, jellyfish, and vegetation. Leatherbacks have delicate scissor-like jaws that would be damaged by anything other than their normal diet of jellyfish, tunicates, and other soft-bodied animals.

Unfortunately, all seven sea turtle species face many threats both in the ocean and on land including: mostly illegal hunting and egg collecting, loss of habitat and nesting sites, entanglement in fishing gear, and unusually cold weather.

Since 1980, SeaWorld has rescued more than 1,500 sea turtles. Whether cold-stunned from below normal water temperatures, entangled in fishing gear, injured from a motor boat strike, or impacted by an oil spill, we provide treatment and a place of recovery for these endangered reptilian refuges. Learn more about how SeaWorld cares for rescued sea turtles on a Saving a Species tour.

And new this summer, Turtle Reef.

Q: Do sea turtles migrate?
SW: Some do! Green sea turtles may travel up to 1,300 miles from summer nesting grounds to winter feeding grounds.

Q: How long can they stay under water?
SW: Hawksbill sea turtles can stay under water for up to 45 minutes. Green sea turtles can slow their heart rate enough to stay under water for as long as five hours!

Q: How big do they get?
SW: The leatherback is the largest of all living sea turtles, and they’re quite a sight! Mature leatherbacks reach shells lengths of just under 4 feet to nearly 6 feet. The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest species measuring a little over 1.5 feet on to just under 2.5 feet long.

Q: Are they endangered?
SW: Green, leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, and olive ridley sea turtles are endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Loggerheads are threatened. Flatbacks are not currently listed.