Added September 14 2003. Last updated February 2008.


Marine Turtles

The marine turtles are found throughout most of the world's oceans, although the family here lack the special physiological adaptations of the Leatherback and therefore do not travel into such high latitudes. All spend their entire life at sea apart from females who have to come ashore to lay their eggs.

The conservation status of the marine turtles is variable, but for some species it is fairly critical, mainly due to pressure of human encroachment on nesting sites. Other practices such as modern fishing techniques have also caused losses (eg due to being caught in nets), although the use of hawksbills for tortoiseshells is hopefully now abating. It has been pointed that as the open seas belong to no single country or agency, the unscrupulous are free to break the laws that are supposed to protect these animals. Nevertheless the profile of the marine turtles has been raised in recent years, and numerous agencies and voluntary organisations are working to improve their status.

Genus Common Name No. of species Location Notes
Caretta Loggerhead Turtle  1 Worldwide Largest species in the family.
Chelonia Flatback and Green Turtles  2 Worldwide Attempts have been made to commercially farm the Green Turtle: see Alderton. 
Eretmochelys Hawksbill 2   Has suffered heavily from uncontrolled human exploitation.
Lepidochelys Kemp's and Olive Ridleys 2 Atlantic and Pacific Oceans  The nesting of Kemp's Ridley is confined to one small area in the Gulf of Mexico.
Natator Flatback Turtle




Turtles and Tortoises of the World, David Alderton, Blandford, London 1999.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, Harold Cogger, 6th edition, to which I gratefully acknowledge my debt for the information on this page.

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