Meet the Loggerheads

Loggerhead near propeller closeup

Here at Wildlife Sense, one of our primary concerns is the conservation of loggerhead sea turtles; one of 7 known sea turtle species, including leatherback, green, olive ridley, kemps ridley, hawksbill and flatback. Loggerheads have, for a long time, attracted a substantial amount of scientific interest following observations of a global decline in their population.

Loggerhead near propeller

A large powerful beak is one of the key features that distinguishes the loggerheads from other sea turtle species, particularly the closely related Green sea turtles. In general the length and width of a loggerhead head is larger than that of a green sea turtle.  This is possibly a morphological adaption to best cope with the loggerheads staple diet of hard-bodied crustaceans such as bivalves and molluscs.  Patterns of scutes (scale-like patterns) on sea turtle carapaces can also be used to identify a species.  Loggerheads typically have 5 vertebral scutes, accompanied by 5 pairs of coastal scutes on the edge of the carapace.

Loggerheads are classified as an endangered species, and they currently face many environmental issues that threaten their continued survival.  Increasingly intensified fishing practices such as long-line and trawler fishing has lead to the death of thousands of sea turtles, including loggerheads, who typically become caught on either the line or the net before drowning.   Increased anthropogenic presence such as coastal development on nesting beaches is thought to have a highly negative impact on nesting and hatching success rates with light pollution being particularly detrimental to the newly emerged hatchlings.  As loggerhead hatchlings have on average a 1:1000 chance of survival to adulthood, any extra causes of death need to be minimised in order for the population to have the best chances at survival.

Hatchling headed to sea

Loggerheads are widely considered to be a widespread sea turtle species as unlike their counterparts they have been known to nest in both temperate and tropical waters, meaning they can be found in a variety of locations, from the Indo-Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and Mediterranean.  Many scientific studies have concluded that Mediterranean and Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles possess significant genetic differences.  Mediterranean loggerheads have smaller carapace sizes and nesting clutch sizes, as well as shorter embryonic incubation times than their Atlantic counterparts.  This has led to the classification of a loggerhead sub-population in the Mediterranean.

Loggerheads are one of the most intensively studied species of sea turtles, and this vast amount of scientific research is critical to protecting these threatened reptiles. Only with a better understanding of this species can we protect and help save them from extinction.

Written by Laura Bartlett | .

Tags: Kefalonia, Caretta caretta