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What are Loggerhead Turtles?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Loggerhead turtles are sea turtles with a global distribution, although some areas of the world are more famous for their loggerheads than others. In the conservation movement, loggerhead turtles have become an important symbol; these gentle giants were added to the endangered species list in 1978, and they continue to be very vulnerable despite the efforts of conservationists. People who want to see loggerhead turtles in their natural habitats can visit coastal regions with large populations of loggerheads, although access to the turtles may be restricted due to conservation concerns.

Like other sea turtles, loggerheads have a shell or carapace with a softer underside. The shell is typically a reddish brown color, while the turtle's belly is a creamy yellow. Loggerheads have powerful fins for swimming along with strong, squared jaws which are capable of snapping through shellfish. Adult turtles can exceed 220 pounds (100 kilograms) in size, and they are quite an impressive sight.

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There are several distinct stages to the life of a loggerhead turtle. Females lay their eggs on shore, and when the eggs hatch, the baby turtles make their way to the water. The trip to the water helps the young turtle build up its strength, and once the turtles hit the water, they immediately start swimming and exploring. Young turtles drift out to sea, where they inhabit floating debris in the ocean and scavenge for food. At around 12 years of age, loggerhead turtles move into coastal regions, where they spend the majority of their lives, although some turtles have been known to travel immense distances.

Humans once hunted loggerhead turtles as a source of meat and oil. Their shells were also used in various crafts. Overhunting seriously threatened the survival of the loggerhead turtle, and when the creatures were listed as endangered, it became illegal to hunt them. Loggerhead turtles are still threatened by habitat destruction, however, as they rely on healthy waters and beaches to survive. It is also not uncommon for loggerhead turtles to be swept up in a fishing bycatch, although some branches of the fishing industry use specially designed nets which are designed to let turtles out.

These sea turtles can live to be quite old; they aren't even sexually mature until around 35. Many people enjoy watching loggerhead turtles in the water, and in some parts of the world, people can even swim with them. Conservationists hope that their efforts will preserve loggerhead turtle populations so that future generations can enjoy them as well.

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