Your Florida Backyard NSiS Home Page Your Florida Backyard Sea Turtles
Marine turtles (family Cheloniidae) and leatherback sea turtles (family Dermochelyidae) spend all of their lives a sea except for females who briefly go ashore at night to lay their eggs. In Florida, egg-laying occurs in the late spring and summer. They use the same beaches each year yet may travel as far as 4,000 miles away before returning. They must breathe air but can remain underwater for long periods of time, diving to depths of more than 3,000 feet.
There is only one species of leatherback sea turtle alive today. They have a leathery hide rather than a hard shell.

The Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta caretta, nests along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It has a reddish-brown streamlined shell, a large head and broad jaws. It may reach a length of 4 feet and weigh 170-350 pounds.
The Atlantic Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, nests along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts (primarily from Brevard to Palm Beach County) in May and June. It has a broad, oval, dark brown or olive shell. It grows to a maximum length of 5 feet and weighs 250-280 pounds. Its diet consists mainly of turtle grass though it does eat marine invertebrates.
The Atlantic Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, rarely nests in Florida but may be found around coral reefs off the south Florida coasts, particularly in the Keys. It has a heart-shaped greenish brown or tan shell with mottling on its head and flippers. The upper jaw looks like the bill of a hawk. The Hawksbill may reach a length of 3 feet and weigh 165 pounds. Its diet consists mainly of marine invertebrates. This turtle is the source of tortoise shell used in making jewelry and other products.
The Atlantic Ridley Turtle, Lepidochelys kempii, is found primarily along the Gulf Coast although juveniles have been seen along the Atlantic during the summer. It has a heart-shaped olive-green shell and olive head and flippers. It grows to 27" and weighs 80-100 pounds.

The Leatherback Turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, nests on the Atlantic coast. It has a dark hide with light blue or white flecks. It feeds primarily on jelly fish. This is the largest of all turtles, reaching a length of 7 feet. While females typically weigh less than 1000 pounds, males weigh up to 1600 pounds.

The Sea Turtle Survival League provides more information.

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