The loggerhead sea turtle is the state reptile of South Carolina.
Loggerhead sea turtles are classified as "threatened" in the United States and "endangered" internationally. They are a state and federally protected species.
In the United States, loggerheads nest from Virginia to the Gulf Coast.
Loggerheads are carnivores, and eat crabs, lobsters, clams, sea urchins, and jellyfish. They use their powerful jaws to crush crustaceans. Juvenile loggerheads eat small invertebrates, such as crabs.
Adult loggerheads are between 33 and 48 inches in length and weigh up to 350 pounds.
Loggerhead lifespan is estimated to be 50 to 80 years or more.
Loggerheads reach sexual maturity between 20 and 35 years of age, mainly based on food availability.
Only females return to land, to lay their eggs. Males remain at sea their entire lives.
In South Carolina, females nest an average of 4 times a season, with 12-15 days between nestings. The female then takes a 2 to 3.5 year "break" before nesting again.
Females may mate several times and store enough sperm for the entire egg laying season. Nesting season here in South Carolina begins in May and continues through August. Average egg incubation on our beach is 56 days.
Nest temperature determines the sex of the hatchling turtles. Hotter temperatures produce more females, cooler temperatures more males.
After hatching, the hatchling turtle remains in the nest approximately two days while its shell hardens and it absorbs its yolk sac.
Hatchlings must be allowed to walk to the water unaided. This allows them to imprint on our sand and orient themselves to the earth's magnetic field. It has been shown that adult females may return to nest in the same region, or even the same beach, on which they were hatched.
After sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests, they vanish into the sea. Until recently, their journey
was largely shrouded in mystery. Now, as technology advances, researchers are beginning to understand
where turtles go during their so-called “lost years.” Click here to watch the documentary “Sea Turtles: The Lost Years”:
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