The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is the most common sea turtle in Florida. It was named for its large, triangular-shaped head. This massive head houses the muscles necessary for the loggerhead to crush its favorite foods: lobster, crab, conch and clams. They are relatively slow swimmers and thus often accumulate barnacles and algae on their shells. Their skin is an orangey-brown color and their shells are a rusty brown under their algae layers. Although abundant in the U.S., they are relatively rare in the rest of the world.
Common name: Loggerhead (for its exceptionally large head)
Scientific name: Caretta caretta Family: Cheloniidae Group: reptiles
Status: Is listed as a Threatened species in the U.S. under the Federal Endangered Species Act
Range: temperate and tropical waters throughout the world
Size: adults are 2.5 to 3.5 feet in carapace length
Weight: to 350 pounds
Characteristics: very large head with strong jaws. Rusty-brown carapace, creamy yellow plastron. Bony carapace with non-overlapping scutes (5 lateral scutes). Two claws on each front flipper. Two pair of pre-frontal scutes between the eyes.
Habitat: shallow coastal or coastal shelf waters.
Diet: crabs, lobster and other shellfish. Mollusks such as clams and conch.
Nesting: nest at intervals of 2-3 years, sometimes more. Will lay 4-7 nests per year (12-14 days apart). Average 100-126 eggs per nest.
Interesting facts: the main nesting colonies for loggerheads are found in the U.S. and in Oman. They are relatively rare in the rest of the world. Its large head means that its crushing jaws can be up to 10 inches wide!
Lobster and crab are primary food sources for these animals and a commercial crab or lobster trap must look like a giant lunchbox to these turtles! Unfortunately, they frequently entangle themselves in the trap rope while attempting to get to their “lunch” and can drown or lose flippers to circulatory strangulation. The photo below shows a healed constriction from a trap rope. This turtle healed fully and was released back into keys’ waters.