Five species of sea turtle rely on Florida’s coastal and nearshore habitats for nesting during the summer months and foraging throughout the year (Figure 1).
- Loggerhead turtles, named for their large, block-shaped heads with strong jaw muscles for crushing benthic invertebrates, are the most common sea turtle species on Florida’s nesting beaches. They nest on beaches throughout much of the state.
- Green turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they are largely vegetarian, and can be spotted foraging in seagrass meadows.
- Leatherbacks, the largest species of sea turtle, are different from other turtles in that they are covered with a somewhat flexible “leathery” shell, rather than a hard shell. Leatherbacks can be seen in Florida’s coastal waters, but nest much less frequently in the state than loggerheads and green turtles.
- Kemp’s ridley turtles are the smallest and most endangered marine turtle. They can be seen foraging in nearshore areas, but rarely nest on Florida’s beaches.
- Lastly, hawksbill turtles are named for their pointed beak. They are mostly tropical but occasionally appear in the southernmost waters of Florida and very rarely nest in the state.