Caretta caretta

Loggerhead
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
FWS Focus

Overview

Loggerheads were named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. The carapace (top shell) is slightly heart-shaped and reddish-brown in adults and sub-adults, while the plastron (bottom shell) is generally a pale yellowish color. The neck and flippers are usually dull brown to reddish brown on top and medium to pale yellow on the sides and bottom. Mean straight carapace length of adults in the southeastern U.S. is approximately 36 in (92 cm); corresponding weight is about 250 lbs (113 kg). On July 28, 1978, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) issued a final rule listing the loggerhead sea turtle as threatened throughout its worldwide range. On September 22, 2011, the Services determined that the loggerhead sea turtle is composed of 9 distinct population segments and listed four DPSs as threatened and five DPSs as endangered under the ESA. All but two of these DPSs are wholly foreign species.

Scientific Name

Caretta caretta
Common Name
Loggerhead
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
FWS Category
Reptiles
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus
Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics

Reproduction

The U.S. nesting season for the species occurs from April through September, with a peak in June and July. Nesting occurs primarily at night. Loggerheads are known to nest from one to seven times within a nesting season (mean is about 4.1 nests per season) at intervals of approximately 14 days. 

Incubation duration ranges from about 42 to 75 days, depending on incubation temperatures, but averages 55-60 days for most clutches in Florida. Hatchlings generally emerge at night. Remigration intervals of 2 to 3 years are most common in nesting loggerheads, but remigration can vary from 1 to 7 years.  Age at sexual maturity is believed to be about 32 to 35 years.

Lifespan

 

Lifespan is estimated to be 70 years or more.

Characteristic category

Overview

Characteristics

Overview

Known for its large head and blunt jaws used to feed on hard-shelled prey, loggerhead turtles are the most abundant species of sea turtle that nests in the United States. The species is found worldwide, and has nine distinct population segments that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the U.S., the species' Northwest Atlantic Ocean distinct population segment nests primarily along the Atlantic coast of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, and along the Florida and Alabama coasts in the Gulf of Mexico.

The species is threatened by loss or degradation of its nesting habitat from coastal development and beach armoring. Nests are vulnerable to predation by native and non-native predators, and hatchlings to disorienting beachfront lighting. In their marine foraging habitat, loggerheads face threats from marine pollution and debris, watercraft strikes, disease, and incidental take from channel dredging and commercial trawling, longline, and gill net fisheries. 

In the southeastern U.S., concerted nest-protection and beach-habitat protection efforts are underway for most of the significant nesting areas, and significant progress has been made in reducing mortality from commercial fisheries in U.S. waters with the enforcement of turtle excluder device regulations. Many coastal counties and communities in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have developed lighting ordinances to reduce hatchling disorientations. Important U.S. nesting beaches have been and continue to be acquired for long-term protection. The migratory nature of loggerheads severely compromises these efforts once they move outside U.S. waters, however, since legal and illegal fisheries activities in some countries are causing high mortality of loggerheads from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean distinct population segment. Due to the long-range migratory movements of sea turtles between nesting beaches and foraging areas, long-term international cooperation is absolutely essential for recovery and stability of nesting populations.

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics

Habitat

The loggerhead is widely distributed within its range. It may be found hundreds of miles out to sea, as well as in inshore areas such as bays, lagoons, salt marshes, creeks, ship channels, and the mouths of large rivers. Coral reefs, rocky places, and ship wrecks are often used as feeding areas. Nesting occurs mainly on open beaches or along narrow bays having suitable sand, and it is often in association with other species of sea turtles. Most loggerhead hatchlings originating from U.S. beaches are believed to lead a pelagic existence in the North Atlantic gyre for an extended period of time, perhaps as long as 7 to 12 years, and are best known from the eastern Atlantic near the Azores and Madeira. Post-hatchlings have been found floating at sea in association with Sargassum rafts. Once they reach a certain size, these juvenile loggerheads begin recruiting to coastal areas in the western Atlantic where they become benthic feeders in lagoons, estuaries, bays, river mouths, and shallow coastal waters. These juveniles occupy coastal feeding grounds for about 13 to 20 years before maturing and making their first reproductive migration, the females returning to their natal beach to nest.

Marine

Of or relating to the sea.

Coastal

The land near a shore.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics

Food

Loggerhead turtles feed on mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and other marine animals.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics

Size & Shape

For sea turtles, loggerheads are medium size.

Measurements

Length: 2.5 to 3.5 feet 

 

Color & Pattern

The carapace and flippers are a reddish-brown color; the plastron is yellow. The carapace has five pairs of costal scutes with the first touching the nuchal scute. There are three large inframarginal scutes on each of the bridges between the plastron and carapace. 

Weight

Measurements

Weight: 200 to 350 pounds

Geography

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