Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States

Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States

Carol Ruckdeschel
C. Robert Shoop
Meg Hoyle Photo Editor
Foreword by James R. Spotila
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 152
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States
    Book Description:

    Written by two of the Southeast's foremost authorities on sea turtle conservation, this is an accessible, fully illustrated guide to the species that frequent the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. No one who encounters a sea turtle soon forgets it. The leatherback, for instance, can grow to huge proportions, commonly approaching eight feet in length and more than half a ton in weight. Powerful swimmers, they are also among the deepest divers of all air-breathing sea creatures. Despite these assets, the survival of the leatherback, like that of all sea turtle species, is under constant threat from commercial fishing operations, overdevelopment of nesting grounds, pollution, and predation by introduced species. The guide opens with comprehensive coverage of the sea turtle's evolution, juvenile and adult life cycles, nesting, diet and feeding, disease and parasites, predators, and conservation issues. Each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a particular turtle species: loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp's ridley, green sea turtle, hawksbill, and olive ridley. The account of each species describes distribution, habitats, general appearance, life history and behavior, and conservation. For each species, photographs of hatchlings and adults and a map showing distribution and migration provide further information. Sea turtles have been swimming the seas for one hundred million years. Yet all of the species in this book--indeed, all sea turtles worldwide--are on U.S. and international endangered lists. Biologists Carol Ruckdeschel and C. Robert Shoop have dedicated their careers to learning about sea turtles-and to ensuring that we understand that we are stakeholders in the fate of these ancient creatures. With this guide in hand, readers will be better equipped to understand sea turtle biology and support sea turtle conservation efforts. Species information includes distribution habitats general appearance life history and behavior conservation Additional features include: identification keys glossary selected bibliography detailed drawings of distinctive features color photographs distribution maps

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4446-1
    Subjects: Zoology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    James R. Spotila

    Sea turtles are among the most magnificent marine creatures, with a charisma that makes them almost mythical. Although relatively few people have ever seen a sea turtle in its natural habitat, most of us know them from films and speak of them with awe. In addition to their aesthetic value, sea turtles can tell us much about the condition of the sea. We cannot see the sharks, tuna, swordfish, whales, and many other sea animals that are being devastated by industrial fishing and pollution, but sea turtles must come ashore to nest, and this allows us to count them and...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. About Sea Turtles
    (pp. 1-32)

    All turtles are reptiles, and all have a shell consisting of two parts: the top is called the carapace, and the bottom, the plastron. Instead of teeth, turtles have a horny covering on the beak, the rhamphotheca. The front limbs of sea turtles are modified to serve as paddles and are longer and flatter than those of freshwater turtles; the hind limbs are used as rudders. Unlike most freshwater turtles and tortoises, sea turtles cannot withdraw the head and limbs inside the shell. Otherwise, the general body plan is similar to that of other turtles. Although sea turtles spend almost...

  7. Species Accounts

    • Leatherback
      (pp. 35-52)

      Leatherbacks, because of their extensive migrations and specialized food requirements, are often seen in loose groups, usually well offshore. Sometimes more than a dozen may be observed in a small area. Depending on whether they are feeding on surface-floating jellyfish or those found at great depths, leatherback sightings may be frequent or rare. In short, accurate population counts are difficult, but summer migration numbers along the northeastern coast are estimated to be in the low thousands. Such numbers are probably present at times off the southeastern coasts as well, and also in the Gulf of Mexico. Several hundred leatherbacks regularly...

    • Loggerhead
      (pp. 53-68)

      Loggerheads are the most abundant sea turtles along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States south of Cape Cod. When the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978, genetically distinct subpopulations were unknown. dna studies have now identified at least three Atlantic and Gulf nesting subpopulations whose status must be individually assessed. The northern subpopulation nests from North Carolina south to northeastern Florida and shows a continual slow decline in numbers. The south Florida subpopulation nests from New Smyrna Beach on the east coast around to Sarasota on the west coast; it is the largest...

    • Kemp’s Ridley
      (pp. 69-78)

      Kemp’s ridley is the most endangered of all the sea turtle species. A few thousand adult females nest in a single locality in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and a very few nest in other scattered locations, such as Padre Island, Texas. Juveniles are frequently encountered along the Gulf and East coasts, but observations of adults outside the Gulf of Mexico are relatively rare. Old films and interviews with witnesses indicate that in 1947 up to forty thousand females nested on the 60-km-long beach at Tamaulipas in a single day. By 1968, the largest single nesting group during a season had declined to...

    • Olive Ridley
      (pp. 79-84)

      The olive ridley is a tropical species found in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. Major nesting areas occur near low-salinity waters around the mouths of rivers and estuaries. In the western North Atlantic Ocean, the species had been limited to the northern coast of South America, with a few individuals reported from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, until 2003, when the first records of olive ridleys in Florida were documented. This species is the most common nester on the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America, and it is thought to be the most numerous of the...

    • Green Turtle
      (pp. 85-96)

      The worldwide abundance of green turtles is unknown, but populations are declining in all ocean basins. Several nesting populations have been lost altogether, and there is no indication that the beaches are being recolonized. Nesting numbers and the number of juveniles in inshore waters indicate that the Florida nesting population is stable or increasing, however, with hundreds to thousands nesting annually.

      Green turtles, mainly a warm-water species, are found in all oceans and have major nesting areas throughout the world. The greatest numbers occur in association with specific foraging and nesting areas such as northeastern Costa Rica, the eastern coast...

    • Hawksbill
      (pp. 97-106)

      Hawksbills are not abundant in U.S. waters. Most populations are considered to be declining, but relatively large nesting populations still occur in Yemen, northeastern Australia, the Red Sea, and Oman.

      Coral reefs, rocky outcrops and rubble piles, and shallow seas throughout the tropics are typical habitats for this widely distributed species. Major nesting beaches are in northern Australia, the Fiji Islands, East Malaysia, many groups of islands in the Indian Ocean and along the coasts of the Arabian and Red seas, southwest Brazil, Surinam, French Guiana, Guyana, along the Yucatán Peninsula, and islands in the Caribbean.

      Specimens have been encountered...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 107-108)

    All sea turtle species have declined during the past 200–300 years as a direct or indirect result of human activities. All species are officially recognized as in need of assistance to relieve the pressures limiting their reproductive success and survival to maturity. Our challenge is to develop and implement successful management plans to counteract the myriad threats the turtles face. Such plans affect numerous human activities worldwide and require a multinational effort that has been gaining momentum in recent years as more and more people have become aware of the plight of sea turtles. The United States has been...

  9. Appendix: Keys to Sea Turtles of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts
    (pp. 109-124)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 125-130)
  11. Additional Selected Reading
    (pp. 131-132)
  12. Index
    (pp. 133-136)