Atlantic Loggerhead

Scientific name: Caretta caretta

Mi’kmaq Translation: Translation Unknown

French Translation: Tortue Caouanne

Gaelic Translation: Turtar a’ chinn mhòr

Physical Description

A large marine turtle with a reddish-brown, heart-shaped carapace. The scutes are often bordered with yellow. The bridge (which connects the plastron to the carapace) and plastron vary from yellow to yellowish cream. The head varies from reddish chestnut to olive brown. The clawed flippers and tail are dark reddish brown above and yellowish-brown below. Males have a longer tail, and a claw on the front flippers that is larger than the rest.

Size

Hatchlings measure up to 4.3cm in length

Adults measure 79 – 114cm in length

Adults weigh 77 to 150kg

Range and Distribution

In Canada, this species occurs primarily offshore in Atlantic waters, although they have been observed in shallower regions like the Bay of Fundy and southwestern Nova Scotia. Their global distribution includes the tropical and temperate regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Habitat

The Atlantic Loggerhead is aquatic, living in marine environments. In Canadian waters, individuals can be observed foraging in coastal areas and in deep waters offshore.

Diet

Atlantic Loggerheads feed on marine invertebrates. This includes gastropods like snails, bivalves like clams and oysters, crustaceans and jellyfish, fish, plants and algae.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Every year, adult Loggerheads return to the beach from which they hatched. They journey there to nest from April to September with peak nesting activity between May and July. Females reproduce every 2-3 years. They can lay up to 4 clutches each season with 10 to 18 days between each clutch. In the evenings, after the nest cavity has been dug, females will lay 110 to 130 eggs, which will hatch approximately two months later. Hatchlings emerge from the nest at night, using light cues to lead them to the ocean. Gender is dependent on nest incubation temperatures. Temperatures 26 degrees and lower produce males, temperatures 32 degrees and higher produce females. Intermediate temperatures will produce both genders. Sexual maturity is reached between 16-35 years, and while their full lifespan in currently unknown, they can live up to 60 years or more.

Status

SARA: Endangered

COSEWIC: Endangered

* All marine turtles are considered endangered species

Threats

The greatest threats facing this species includes by-catch, becoming entangled in commercial fishing gear, ingestion of garbage and plastic – especially plastic bags which resemble jellyfish, oil spills, environmental pollution, and propeller strikes from passing ships. Climate change and the illegal poaching of eggs also contributes to their population decline.