The reddish-brown loggerhead turtle is the most common sea turtle found in the southeastern United States. 90% of the estimated 14,000 female loggerheads can be encountered in Florida. These turtles, named for their disproportionately large heads, have powerful jaw muscles which enable them to feed on a variety of heavy shelled mollusks and crustaceans in addition to jellyfish. Loggerhead turtles range in size from 33-40 inches shell length and 150-400 pounds. They reach maturity between 20-30 years of age and will be able to reproduce over a period of approximately 30 years. Loggerheads nest between late April and October prior to swimming off to feeding grounds throughout the Caribbean, northeast along the U.S. coast to New Jersey, southeast through the Florida Keys, and west to the Gulf of Mexico.
Green turtles, named for the greenish color of their body fat, are medium to large reptiles. Their shells are distinguished by a mottled or radiating pattern of markings. Green turtles differ from other members of the sea turtle family because of the single pair of scales on the front of their smallish heads. Greens can be between 36-43 inches long, weighing between 200 and 300 pounds. Green turtle nesting shows a clear pattern of alternating high and low years. The years 1999 and 2000 give a good indication of this high/low pattern with 479 reported green turtle nests in 1999 and 8,404 green turtle nests reported in Florida in 2000, this according to data collected by the Florida Marine Research Institute. Greens are primarily a tropical herbivorous species most at home in areas of shallow, sandy flats abundant with seagrasses. Their low protein vegetarian diet causes green turtles to grow and sexually mature slowly. Greens will reach maturity anywhere between 15-50 years of age.
Leatherback turtles are highly specialized and the largest and deepest diving of the sea turtle family. Individual leatherbacks range in length between 4 and 8 feet, and can weigh anywhere between 700-2,000 pounds. Unlike other species of sea turtle, leatherbacks are scaleless, covered instead with a firm, rubbery skin lined with 7 longitudinal ridges. Leatherbacks may travel up to 3100 miles from their nesting beaches which are found on tropical and subtropical shores. They will visit Florida’s beaches to nest between April and August each year. In 2000, 453 nests were counted in Florida and 35% of those were in Palm Beach County.