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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Caretta caretta
Loggerhead Turtle / Tortue caouanne


Loggerhead Turtle
© Jeroen Speybroeck

Description
The Loggerhead Turtle is the second largest turtle in the world (exceeded only by the Leatherback) and may reach 2 m carapace length and 450 kg although it is typically smaller. It has a carapace which is elongate with a keel along the centre line and coarse serrations along the back edge. It is reddish brown to olive with yellow borders on some scutes. The plastron is cream to yellow and has two longitudinal ridges except in older adults. The limbs are paddle-like and both they and the tail are dark above, yellow beneath with yellowish edges. Males have a large curved claw on each forelimb and more yellow on the head than females.

Confusing Species
The Loggerhead Turtle is similar to the other hard-shelled sea turtles, however it is larger than either the Green Turtle or the Kemp's Ridley Turtle. Both of these turtles lack the keel along the carapace although the Ridley does have knobs instead of a keel. Neither of these two species is ever reddish.

Distribution
Although the Loggerhead Turtle is found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, in Canada it has only been found on the Atlantic coast. It ranges as far north as the southeast coast of Newfoundland and is also seen along the east coast of Nova Scotia. Its global distribution also includes the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.

Habitat
Loggerhead Turtles have been found as far as 240 km from shore in open seas but they are usually found within the Gulf Stream. Hatchlings and juveniles are found in drifting mats of Sargassum algae. Nesting occurs on continental or occasionally island beaches above the high-tide mark.

Reproduction
Loggerhead Turtles may take 10-30 years to reach maturity. Most nesting beaches are on subtropical to temperate coastlines although some are in the tropics. There are nesting beaches as far north as New Jersey. Females breed every 1-7 years but may lay several clutches of over 100 eggs in a season. Nesting can occur throughout the year but is earlier in Atlantic populations and later in the Pacific. The sex of the embryos is temperature-dependent. Hatchlings emerge from the nest at night and rush towards the sea.

Natural History
Loggerheads are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of invertebrates, algae and aquatic plants. They may spend up to 85% of their time submerged. Hatchlings have a small amount of magnetic material in their heads which allow them to detect the earth's magnetic field. They may use this to help navigate. Juveniles have been re-captured over 6000 km from their original capture site. Loggerheads can swim up to 20 km/hr.

Conservation Concerns
Loggerheads are the most abundant sea turtle in North America. Nevertheless many of their nesting beaches have been destroyed by development. Each year many are killed by collisions with boats or drowned in fishing nests. Because Loggerheads are so long-lived it is unclear if juvenile survivorship is high enough to replace the population.