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Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They avoid deep waters, preferring coastlines where sponges are abundant and sandy nesting sites are within reach. Not particularly large compared with other sea turtles, hawksbills grow up to about 45 inches (114 centimeters) in shell length and 150 pounds (68 kilograms) in weight. While young, their carapace, or upper shell, is heart-shaped, and as they mature it elongates. Their strikingly colored carapace is serrated and has overlapping scutes, or thick bony plates. Their tapered heads end in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence their name. A further distinctive feature is a pair of claws adorning each flipper. Male hawksbills have longer claws, thicker tails, and somewhat brighter coloring than females. They are normally found near reefs rich in the sponges they like to feed on. Hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. Their hard shells protect them from many predators, but they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, crocodiles, octopuses, and humans.

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