Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Turtle with a long tail!

The other day while we were out at Capella Bay near Buck Island, some of our divers got a rare treat!  A big Hawksbill sea turtle with a REALLY long tail swam by.  None of them had ever seen a turtle like this before.  Only male sea turtles have a really long, beefy tail.  

Image by Jason Crump - Male Hawksbill sea turtle

The females have a much shorter tail, mostly hidden beneath their shell.  This is the most obvious distinguishing characteristic that helps us identify a male from a female sea turtle.

Why is this such a rare sighting?  We see sea turtles relatively often (considering they are endangered species) , but over 99% of the time we are looking at female sea turtles.  So where are all of the males hiding?  Male sea turtles spend most of their lives out in open ocean.  Believe it or not, life is safer for turtles out there.  But why?  There is a much higher population density in the near coastal environments.  In open ocean, creatures are so spread out that their chances of running into a predator are much less than in the coastal areas.  Male sea turtles only visit the near coastal areas to mate with the females and then head back out to open water.

Image by Nathanial Kelley - Female Hawksbill sea turtle

The female sea turtles have to take the risk of coming into the near coastal areas so they can feed.  They need to consume lots of calories to get big and strong, because when they are mature they will have to produce over 100 eggs each time they nest.  Female sea turtles nest multiple times per season.  That requires a lot of energy!

A huge "THANK YOU!" to our friend and local diver Jason Crump for capturing footage of this rare sighting of a male Hawksbill sea turtle and allowing us to share it!

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