Animals

Mediterranean turtles

Can you tell which are the species of Mediterranean sea turtles ? Do you want to know them better? Then, you will be interested in reading on. Most of the scientific community assumes that there are only three common species in the Mediterranean: the loggerhead turtleCaretta caretta ), the green turtle ( Chelonia mydas ) and the leatherback turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea ). However, there are more species of these marine reptiles that pass through the Mediterranean less frequently, such as the bastard turtleLepidochelys kempii ), which is normally found in the Gulf of Mexico, although during their migrations it can pass through the Mediterranean area.

An important aspect to highlight of these four species of Mediterranean sea turtles is that they belong to two different families. In addition, only loggerhead and green turtles nest in the Mediterranean Sea, especially on the eastern coasts. However, there is a common characteristic between these four species that is very worrying: all of them are globally threatened according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list.

If you want to discover much more about these amazing marine animals, keep reading Green Ecology, because in this interesting article, which we bring you thanks to the collaboration with the CRAM Foundation (Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals), we talk about Mediterranean turtles , their characteristics, state of conservation, the threats they suffer and how to help them, among more details.

Tortuga boba o Caretta caretta

The Caretta caretta species , commonly called loggerhead turtle or loggerhead turtle , belongs to the chelonid family ( Cheloniidae ), which differs by having a shell made up of bony plates. The loggerhead turtle can live for more than 90 years, its shell can be more than 1.2 m long and an adult male can weigh more than 100 kg.

This species is distributed in almost any marine environment, so it inhabits all oceans and in various seas, with the exception of the Arctic and Antarctic areas. Of those that inhabit the Mediterranean area, we can say that there are two different population groups: the loggerhead turtles of the Mediterranean Sea and those of the Atlantic Ocean . It has been found because it has been discovered that these two groups differ genetically and make different migrations, some do not leave the Mediterranean Sea and others travel to this sea across the entire Atlantic Ocean.

It is the most abundant species in the Mediterranean Sea and also makes its nests on the eastern beaches of this sea. It should be noted that, according to the IUCN red list, the loggerhead sea turtleCaretta Caretta ) is in a vulnerable state globally .

Another species of turtle in the Mediterranean Sea is the green turtle or Chelonia mydas and, in fact, it is the second most present species in this sea, although it is more abundant in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. This species also belongs to the chelonid family ( Cheloniidae ), as it has a shell made of bony plates. Another aspect that it shares with the loggerhead turtle is that it makes its nests on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, mainly on the eastern shores.

Regarding some of their physical features, these sea ​​turtles can weigh between 80 kg and 150 kg and measure between 90 cm and 1.6 m. In addition, there is a curious trait that especially characterizes green turtles: their diet, because when they become adults they change their feeding habits and become herbivorous , feeding exclusively on algae and marine plants such as, for example, posidonia.

According to the IUCN red list, the green turtleChelonia mydas ) is in danger of extinction globally .

Leatherback sea turtle or Dermochelys coriacea

Another of the Mediterranean sea turtles is the leatherback, which does not only live in this area but we can find it here. Surely you know one of the most famous marine reptile species, the leatherback, leatherback or leatherback turtleDermochelys coriacea ) , known for being the largest sea turtle in the world , since its average weight is 500 kg, but it can weigh up to 800 kg, and the average length is 2 m, although it can reach 3 m.

These huge Mediterranean sea turtles are actually sporadic visitors to these waters and their most common habitats are the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. In fact, it is a highly migratory species because it can move several thousand kilometers.

A curious fact about this species is that it is the only one of its family, that of the dermochelyidae ( Dermochelyidae ), since its shell is made of hard skin and not bony plates, like those of the chelonids ( Cheloniidae ).

On the IUCN red list, we can find the leatherback turtleDermochelys coriacea ) as a species in a globally vulnerable state , like the loggerhead turtle. If you had any doubt about why the leatherback turtle is in danger of extinction , enter this other article in which we clarify its situation and the causes of it.

After meeting the three main or most frequent species of Mediterranean sea turtles , we will now comment a bit on the characteristics and situation of one of the less common species in these waters, but which can also be found sometimes. It is the bastard, parrot, parrot or olive ridley turtle ( Lepidochelys kempii ) . Although there is presence of bastard turtles in the Mediterranean Sea, it is rare to find them because their distribution is mainly centered in the area of ​​the Gulf of Mexico , where we find their largest nesting area.

It is another of the species that are part of the chelonid family ( Cheloniidae ) as it has bony plates forming its shell. They are the smallest Mediterranean tortoises , as they tend to measure up to 90 cm and weigh up to 45 kg.

Despite not being one of the main species, we wanted to include it in this article because, according to the IUCN red list, the bastard tortoise ( Lepidochelys kempii ) is critically endangered globally and, in fact, is the most endangered sea turtle.

Where to see sea turtles in Spain

Where to see Mediterranean sea turtles is a frequent question among those who are curious about marine life. However, as with any wild animal, it is vital to respect its space. It is advisable to avoid direct contact and spend a long time in their presence in the wild, since we can never be sure how they can react, we can scare their prey and then it costs them more to feed, they can become very stressed and even disoriented, among many other problems.

Therefore, if you want to see sea turtles in Spain , look for centers specialized in diving and that sufficiently respect the space of these animals. Another possibility is that you go to recovery centers , such as the CRAM Foundation , where these animals are in rehabilitation. You will not swim with sea turtles here, but you will see them up close and you can even volunteer and help them recover.

Mediterranean turtle threats

Mediterranean tortoises have many threats, each impacting differently on each species. These are the main threats to sea turtles in the Mediterranean Sea :

  • There is a lot of accidental interaction with fishermen, who often trawl these animals unintentionally. These accidents can cause injuries and injuries, as they become entangled in fishing nets . In addition, recently, it was discovered that they also suffer from a disease called decompression syndrome , due to the stress they suffer and because they are subjected to a very abrupt pressure change when the nets are raised to the surface quickly.
  • They also suffer collisions with boats , whether they are fishing boats or other types, such as freight or tourist boats.
  • Obviously, we have the problem of marine pollution , especially with plastic. Turtles accidentally eat plastics , easily mistaking them for their food. For example, they often confuse plastic bags with jellyfish that enter their regular diet. These ingestions can lead to blockages, drowning or malnutrition. In cases where debris gets tangled in their fins, such as ghost nets , they can even cause amputations.
  • Another notable problem is the destruction of their habitat .
  • Climate change is also producing a change in the nesting areas and in the percentage of females and males that hatch from the eggs, since the resulting sex of these young depends on the temperature of the nest. As an example of this effect, in the Mediterranean Sea specifically, we are beginning to find cases of egg laying in the western area, which is not a normal event because these animals usually nest on the eastern Mediterranean coasts.

All these factors are a great threat to the survival of these species, which are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in today’s marine environment.

How to help endangered Mediterranean turtles

Endangered turtles , whether in this exact state, to a lesser degree (vulnerable) or to a greater degree (critically endangered), need the help of people who are willing to compensate for this bad situation that has become worse. by human activities. Many actions can be taken to help Mediterranean sea turtles .

Collaborate with the CRAM Foundation

A direct way to help the turtles of the Mediterranean Sea is to collaborate with foundations dedicated to looking after them, such as the CRAM Foundation (Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals) .

If you want to help Mediterranean sea turtles that need assistance to be rescued, treated, rehabilitated and released into their natural habitat once they are ready for it, you can make a donation , from € 1 per month to the amount you want or can donate , which can be punctual or continuous. You can also sponsor a turtle of those who have to stay to live in the recovery center because they cannot survive alone in nature, or you can go to the center and become a volunteer . If you want more information, you can enter this link and find out how to collaborate with the CRAM Foundation . Also, here below we leave you a video of one of his rescues: Rambo, the rescued 2-finned loggerhead turtle; know its history and much more about this foundation.

Other ways to help Mediterranean turtles

  • Regarding the problem of pollution, it is very important to do a good management of our waste by recycling, reusing and, above all, reducing the use of waste such as plastic and single-use objects.
  • We can also contribute by supporting the purchase of local marine products with sustainable fishing labels, in reliable stores and with well-labeled fish, respecting the minimum sizes and choosing fish or shellfish caught with selective and sustainable fishing techniques. In this way, we will help regulate the problem of overfishing and fishing techniques that destroy all kinds of species, including these marine reptiles.
  • Knowing that each year the turtles arrive more frequently on the Mediterranean beaches to nest, it is necessary for the population to be informed of how to act in case of encountering a turtle making the nest or, even, in the event that it is found stranded or wound on the sand or in the sea.
  • Finally, for the issue of climate change, we must reduce the massive CO2 emissions that have been registered in recent years. To do this, we can reduce household energy consumption, promote public transport, buy local products, reduce meat consumption (since meat factories are responsible for 15% of annual carbon dioxide emissions), buy objects of second hand, etc.

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