Often times, sea turtle facts won’t mention that they’re involuntarily sneaky creatures. Sea turtles often move so slowly and gracefully that you’ll often be shocked to find them swimming right beside you. They also sometimes blend in with the rocks and sand so well that you might even mistake them for being a part of the reef. Pixar actually nailed it in Finding Nemo when they represented sea turtles as being the “surfer dudes” of the underwater community – their slow-motion flippers emanating a sense of tranquillity and chillness that’s completely in tune with the flow of the ocean around them.
Galapagos sea turtle sightings are pretty common in the Galapagos, be it while you’re snorkelling in Galapagos or checking out the sea life below aboard your glass-bottom boat. As a result, we felt it necessary to fill you in on some interesting sea turtle facts regarding these zen-like animals of the sea.
Sea Turtle Facts for Your Galapagos Experience
Organic Tanks of Oxygen
Being air-breathing reptiles, sea turtles still need to head up to the surface every now and then to breathe. Remarkably, they’re capable of holding their breath for several hours at a time. Their level of activity determines just how long they can stay underwater, but typically it can be anywhere from 4 to 7 hours.
Galapagos sea turtles spend 99.9% of their lives at sea. That remaining %0.01 is only spent at beaches when they hatch or nest. This percentage is slightly higher for females that nest several times per season (roughly every 2-5 years).
A rarity in the animal kingdom, sea turtles use their tails as both a waste and reproductive orifice. Consequently, males have longer, thicker tails than females and can extend themselves to almost half the length of its shell. This allows the male to reach his tail underneath the back end of the female’s shell and inseminate the female. Their tail is also prehensile, which allows the male to tightly grip to the female during the extended periods of copulation (usually up to 24 hours).
Old Shell, Wise Soul
Having surpassed the dinosaurs that became extinct nearly 65 million years ago is no easy feat. These tenacious turtles have existed on Earth for more than 100 million years, making them the recipients of the award for “Oldest Animal Family on the Planet.”
Suckers for Seafood
The majority of sea turtles are carnivores, with slight variations in diet depending on the species. Galapagos green sea turtles, however, tend to stick to their colour – they eat any number of sea grasses (seaweed, algae, etc.) instead of meat. Juvenile green sea turtles do dabble in other forms of protein that include sea insects, crustaceans and worms.
Hatchling Game Changer: Temperature
Sea turtle eggs are incredibly sensitive to temperature, so much that the temperature of the sand in which they’re laid plays a central role in determining the sex of the turtle. Too low (below 85°F/30°C) and the hatchlings will end being mostly male. Too high (over 85°F/30°C) and they’ll end up female.