Loggerhead Sea Turtle Fact Sheet
Copyright © 1997
|Habitat: Open ocean and estuaries.
Weight: 170-350 pounds. Weights of up to 1,000 pounds have been recorded.
Length: 31-45 inches.
|Life Expectancy: Actual documentation
of age is rare. Lifespan is estimated to be 50 years or more.
Food: Jellyfish, sponges, shellfish, shrimp, squid, barnacles, sea urchins and
Status: Federally and state threatened.
Identification: The loggerhead is readily identified by its reddish brown
coloration and broad head. Young turtles are brown with light margins below. The front and
back flippers have 2 claws. The carapace (top shell) has 5 lateral scutes (plates) and the
plastron (bottom shell) has 3 inframarginal scutes (large scutes that connect the plastron
and carapace) without pores.
Range: The loggerhead ranges through the North and South Atlantic, occasionally
entering the Mediterranean Sea, from Newfoundland to the British Isles, and south to
Argentina, the Canary Islands and the western coast of tropical Africa. The turtle
formerly nested on Atlantic beaches from Virginia to the Gulf Coast; today the breeding
range extends from North Carolina to the east and west coasts of Florida. Nesting also
occurs on some beaches and bays in the Caribbean.
Reproduction: Loggerheads mate in offshore waters near beach nesting areas. The
females come onto the beaches at night, digging their nests above the high-tide mark. Some
females make "false crawl" attempts where they come ashore but do not nest. The
reasons for this are unknown. The clutch size is 35 to 108 ping-pong ball-sized eggs, and
the incubation period ranges from 46 to 65 days. The females usually produce 2 to 3
clutches per season. They are sexually mature at 6 to 7 years of age, and they nest every
second or third year.
Reason for Decline: Sea turtle populations have historically declined due to
overharvesting for food and turtle products. They are also limited by deaths from oil
spills, beach traffic, predation and nest flooding. Boat propellers, which often inflict
serious wounds to sea turtles, have been responsible for many turtle deaths. Commercial
fishing and shrimping activities often cause turtles to drown or become mutilated or
entangled in nets. Fortunately, by 1994, federal regulations will require that all shrimp
trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean use turtle excluder devices (TEDs)
Discarded plastic bags and wrappers, helium balloons and monofilament fishing line that
end up in the ocean can also be deadly to sea turtles, as well as to other marine life.
Balloons and plastic bags, when floating in water, resemble the turtles' main prey,
jellyfish. When turtles mistakenly eat these items or fishing line, their digestive system
becomes blocked and they eventually die. Another factor which affects sea turtle
populations is the presence of lights on beach nesting areas. After hatching, the small
hatchlings head for the light along the horizon and light reflected off the surface of the
ocean. Inland lights can confuse their orientation, causing the hatchlings to head inland
rather than out to sea.
Nesting areas on Atlantic beaches are threatened by recreational and industrial
development and beachfront construction.
History in Connecticut: The loggerhead has rarely been seen or documented in
Connecticut waters. However, cold-stunned turtles have been reported on the north shore of
Interesting Facts: The loggerhead is thought to be the largest living
hard-shelled turtle. It is exceeded in length and weight only by the leatherback sea
The skull of the loggerhead is broad and massive, providing an anchor for the strong
jaw muscles that are needed to crush shellfish.
The loggerhead is the only living species in the genus Caretta.
Studies have shown that loggerhead eggs incubated at about 90 degrees F (32 degrees C)
or higher develop into females. Eggs incubated at 82 degrees F (28 degrees C) or below
produce males. Incubation temperatures between the two result in both males and females.
Protective Legislation: Federal - Endangered Species Act of 1973, CITES
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix I. State -
Connecticut General Statutes 26-311.
What You Can Do: You can help sea turtles by not purchasing illegal turtle
products, such as turtle leather and tortoiseshell items, and by properly disposing of or
recycling plastic bags, fishing line and balloons. In an effort to help curb the problem
of balloons in Long Island Sound, Connecticut has passed legislation limiting helium
balloon releases to no more than 9 in a 24-hour period. With the help of a little wind,
even balloons released in Connecticut's inland areas can end up in the Sound.
Many sea turtles are tagged for research with metal or plastic markers. Tags are
usually on the inside edge of the front flippers; sometimes the rear flippers or the shell
may be tagged. If you observe a tagged turtle, do not remove any tags unless the
turtle is dead. Tag numbers should be reported to the address on the tag or to the
Wildlife Division's Nonharvested Wildlife Program, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254,
The production of this Endangered and Threatened Species Fact Sheet
Series is made possible by donations to the Endangered Species-Wildlife Income Tax