Sea turtles are highly migratory, travelling thousands of miles a year. Hatchlings begin their journey by migrating to open ocean, where they will feed and hide in floating sargassum patches until they are big enough to avoid all but the biggest predators. They return to coastal areas as juveniles, roughly the size of dinner plates, and will feed in seagrass beds and other nearshore habitats. Upon reaching sexual maturity at about 20 years old, they will migrate thousands of miles to breeding grounds. Males will move between foraging and breeding ground their entire lives, never once leaving the water, while females will return to their birth beaches to start the cycle all over again.
Sea turtles are important members of the ocean food web. After a nest hatches, eggshells and unhatched eggs are an important nutrient source for dune and coastal ecosystems. Hatchlings and juveniles are a source of prey for birds, raccoons, coyotes, crabs and fish. While adult turtles have few natural predators, they are important consumers of algae, jellyfish, sponges and shellfish, keeping populations under control and helping to cycle nutrients.
To learn more about the five species that call Florida waters home, click here.
Did You Know?
The turtles that nest on Escambia County’s beaches will actually spend the majority of their life in the Atlantic Ocean. The turtles we see here in the Gulf of Mexico most likely hatched from beaches on Florida’s eastern coast.