Loggerhead sea turtle

Learn and Explore

Most of the loggerhead sea turtle nests found in Texas are found right here at Padre Island National Seashore! Adults are about three feet long and weigh nearly 250 pounds! In Texas, loggerheads occur primarily in nearshore Gulf of Mexico waters, often in association with offshore oil and gas platforms and natural formations. Loggerheads have a huge head and strong jaw muscles to help them crush large crabs, mollusks, and the other invertebrates that make up their diet. In south Texas, their favorite food is the sea pen, a colonial invertebrate that is named because of their resemblance to quill pens, that occur in lush beds in nearshore Gulf of Mexico waters here.

The loggerhead sea turtle gets its name from its large, block-like head. Find out more interesting facts about the loggerhead sea turtle below!

 
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling on the beach next to green vegetation with a UTV and the ocean in the background.
Loggerhead sea turtle nesting at Padre Island National Seashore.

NPS Photo.

Species Profile

Species: Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Status: Of 9 currently recognized distinct population segments, 4 are federally listed as threatened and 5 are federally listed as endangered. The population in the Gulf of Mexico is federally threatened (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

Size: Adult carapace (upper shell) length is 36 inches (92 cm) (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

Adult weight: 250 pounds (113 kg) (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020)

Coloration: Hatchlings are dark gray with reddish brown streaking above and yellow or tan below; adults are reddish brown above and pale yellow below

Nesting Range: The majority of nesting occurs on beaches in the western Atlantic and Indian oceans; in the western Atlantic nesting occurs from Virginia to Florida; in the Gulf of Mexico it occurs from Florida to Texas; 80-90% of all U.S. nesting occurs in Florida, which includes one of the two largest loggerhead rookeries (nesting areas) in the world (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008)

Non-nesting Range: Worldwide in temperate and tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans, including in the Gulf of Mexico; juveniles primarily use nearshore coastal waters (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008)

Diet: Crabs, conches and other mollusks, jellyfish, fish, and other marine animals (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

Lifespan: Unknown; reaches sexual maturity at 32-35 years and could live more than 80 years (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

Nesting season: April through September in the U.S.; females nest every 1-7 years and lay 3-5 clutches in one nesting season; each nest contains an average of 100-126 eggs that take about 2 months to hatch (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

Historic population: Unknown

Lowest population: Unknown

Reasons for decline: Historic and ongoing incidental capture in fishing gear; historic and ongoing harvest of eggs, juveniles, and adults; other ongoing human impacts and environmental degradation of nesting and marine habitats (National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008)

Current threats: Loss or degradation of nesting habitat from development and armoring; loss of hatchlings affected by beachfront lighting; nest predation by native and non-native predators; degradation of marine foraging habitat; marine pollution and debris; watercraft strikes; disease; and incidental take from channel dredging and commercial trawling, longline, and gill net fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020)

 

Fun Facts about the Loggerhead Sea Turtle!

 
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling on the beach
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling.

NPS Photo.

What a big head you have! The original, 16th century term “logger-head” literally meant “block-head.” A logger was a big block of wood that was fastened to a horse’s leg so it couldn’t run away. The large head of this turtle in proportion to its body likely inspired its common name.

World travelers! Loggerheads are found not only in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic but worldwide. They forage and nest in a wide range of places, including Brazil, Japan, South Africa, and Australia.

A baker’s dozen. Human consumption was not a major factor in the decline of loggerheads as it was for some other sea turtles. However, collecting loggerhead eggs for use in bakeries was a successful industry in St. Augustine, Florida for a period of time.

Seafood supermarkets! The loggerhead is the most common sea turtle encountered in the southeastern U.S. It is often seen around wrecks, reefs, and other underwater structures. These structures are veritable seafood supermarkets for the turtles because of the crabs, sea jellies (once called jellyfish), Portuguese man-of-war, and mollusks that tend to concentrate in such places.

Feel the burn! Loggerheads are one of several sea turtle species that eat sea jellies (once called jellyfish), Portuguese man-of-war, and other stinging creatures. Are they immune to the sting? Scientists don’t think so. Compare it to a person who likes to eat hot peppers. The peppers burn and sting, but some people still enjoy eating peppers. Loggerheads apparently find sea jellies not only tolerable but tasty!

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Literature Cited:

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2020. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) species page. Retrieved from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/loggerhead-turtle

National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2008. Recovery Plan for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), Second Revision. National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD.

Rothschild, S.B. 2004. Beachcomber’s Guide to Gulf Coast Marine Life: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Third Edition.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services Field Office. 2020. Loggerhead sea turtle fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/SeaTurtles/Turtle%20Factsheets/loggerhead-sea-turtle.htm


 

Last updated: August 14, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 181300
Corpus Christi, TX 78480

Phone:

(361) 949-8068
This is the primary phone number for the Malaquite Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore.

Contact Us