Sea Turtles

Get to Know Our Resident Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles

Get to Know Our Resident Sea Turtles

Sea turtle in the water

Sea Turtles

Get to Know Our Resident Sea Turtles

Green Sea TurtlesLoggerhead Sea TurtlesHawksbill Sea TurtleKemp’s Ridley Sea TurtlesLeatherback Sea Turtles

The Green Sea Turtle is found throughout the world’s tropical oceans. It is the largest of the hard-shelled turtles, with an average size of 300 to 350 lbs. The head is small compared to its body size and its jaws have a characteristic serration, which enable it to forage on sea grass and algae. Foraging turtles are important to the health of sea grass beds, which are developmental habitats for a large number of fish species.

The Atlantic green sea turtle has important nesting and foraging grounds on the Atlantic coasts of Costa Rica and throughout the Caribbean and Florida.

This turtle gets its name from the green coloration of its muscles.   The Pacific green sea turtles or black turtles are genetically similar to the Atlantic green sea turtle, however, their coloration is darker and they are smaller than the Atlantic green sea turtle.

Although sea turtles naturally fall victim to Fibropapillomatosis, the primary threats are caused by humans, including boat accidents, trash or fishing hook ingestion and loss of nesting habitats.

loggerhead sea turtle

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is found in nearly every ocean of the world.  They are typically found in temperate or tropical regions, nesting farther from the equator than any other species. They are typically subtropical in nature, nesting farther from the equator than any other species. The Loggerhead is large, reddish-brown and 200 to 300 lbs. in weight. Male loggerheads, as with all species of sea turtle, have a tail that extends nearly a foot past their shell.

The Loggerhead is distinguished from other sea turtles by having a teardrop-shaped shell or “carapace”. The name loggerhead is derived from the turtle’s large head and jaws, which it uses to crush its favorite food items: crabs, clams and conchs. It is the only species of turtle to nest exclusively at night.

The Atlantic Loggerhead is found in great numbers feeding along the inshore and coastal water of the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and along the eastern seaboard as far north as New England.  They are also found in the open water of the Mediterranean, along the west coast of Africa, in the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central and South America.

Nesting by the Atlantic Loggerhead is highest on beaches of the southeastern United States, with close to 90% of that nesting occurring in Florida. Important nesting of the Loggerhead also occurs in the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Turkey and Israel.

The Pacific Loggerhead is found in the temperate waters of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Like the Atlantic Loggerhead, it is found feeding in coastal, near-shore areas along the western coasts of the Americas, around Australia, and in the Middle East. The dividing line between the two sub-species of the loggerhead appears to be South America.

The primary threats to the loggerhead are loss of nesting habitat to beachfront development and associated artificial lighting, shrimping, long line fisheries, entanglements, pollution and being hit by boats.

Hawksbill Sea Turtles are small sea turtles, ranging in size from 100 to 120 lbs. Unlike other species of sea turtle, they do not travel great distances between feeding and nesting areas. They are found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Nesting occurs on small islands adjacent to feeding grounds, which are typically associated with coral reefs.

Hawksbills get their name from their bird-like jaw, which they use to probe the crevices of coral reefs in search of their favorite food, sponges. They are endangered because their scutes are a primary source of tortoiseshell, used in the manufacture of jewelry and other ornamental items.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtles, ranging in size from 80 to 120 lbs. They are primarily confined to the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of the United States, as far north as New England. Adults are found in the Gulf of Mexico, feeding on the productive coastal waters from Texas to Florida. Juveniles can also be found there, but many travel north along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The primary nesting ground is Rancho Nuevo, on Mexico’s east coast. These are fast-swimming turtles that feed primarily on crabs. The carapace is what distinguishes them from other species of sea turtles by its circular shape.

The Kemp’s ridley and Olive ridley sea turtles are the only two species of sea turtle to nest in large groups all at once.  This mass nesting is called an arribada. In the Kemp’s ridley, these arribadas are no longer seen, due to the severe reduction in this species’ population size. These are the most endangered species of sea turtle. Because of their daytime mass nesting, populations of females and their eggs have been nearly wiped out by poachers in only a few decades.

Leatherback Sea Turtles are found throughout the world in all oceans, as far north as Alaska. Leatherback nesting occurs primarily in tropical locations such as New Guinea, Indonesia, Central America and Costa Rica but also includes the East coast of Florida.

The leatherback is the largest species of sea turtle, with an average weight of 1300 lbs. Its name derives from the turtle’s leathery shell. In addition to being soft, it has seven longitudinal ridges. Male loggerheads, as with all species of sea turtle, have a tail that extends past their shell. These enable the turtle to adapt to deep diving and constant swimming.

Leatherbacks are able to tolerate colder temperatures better than other species by using their large size to generate heat. They deposit more clutches, eggs laid in one nest, per individual than other species of sea turtle –  between 50 and 120 eggs per clutch. A large number of these eggs are infertile, but it is not known why female leatherbacks lay these infertile eggs.

Leatherbacks are critically endangered, especially in the Pacific Ocean where the long line fisheries for swordfish and tuna entangle and kill thousands of migrating Leatherbacks each year. However, Leatherback nesting is on the increase in Florida with an average of 50 nests laid on Florida’s east coast each year.

Green Sea Turtles

The Green Sea Turtle is found throughout the world’s tropical oceans. It is the largest of the hard-shelled turtles, with an average size of 300 to 350 lbs. The head is small compared to its body size and its jaws have a characteristic serration, which enable it to forage on sea grass and algae. Foraging turtles are important to the health of sea grass beds, which are developmental habitats for a large number of fish species.

The Atlantic green sea turtle has important nesting and foraging grounds on the Atlantic coasts of Costa Rica and throughout the Caribbean and Florida.

This turtle gets its name from the green coloration of its muscles.   The Pacific green sea turtles or black turtles are genetically similar to the Atlantic green sea turtle, however, their coloration is darker and they are smaller than the Atlantic green sea turtle.

Although sea turtles naturally fall victim to Fibropapillomatosis, the primary threats are caused by humans, including boat accidents, trash or fishing hook ingestion and loss of nesting habitats.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles
loggerhead sea turtle

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is found in nearly every ocean of the world.  They are typically found in temperate or tropical regions, nesting farther from the equator than any other species. They are typically subtropical in nature, nesting farther from the equator than any other species. The Loggerhead is large, reddish-brown and 200 to 300 lbs. in weight. Male loggerheads, as with all species of sea turtle, have a tail that extends nearly a foot past their shell.

The Loggerhead is distinguished from other sea turtles by having a teardrop-shaped shell or “carapace”. The name loggerhead is derived from the turtle’s large head and jaws, which it uses to crush its favorite food items: crabs, clams and conchs. It is the only species of turtle to nest exclusively at night.

The Atlantic Loggerhead is found in great numbers feeding along the inshore and coastal water of the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and along the eastern seaboard as far north as New England.  They are also found in the open water of the Mediterranean, along the west coast of Africa, in the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central and South America.

Nesting by the Atlantic Loggerhead is highest on beaches of the southeastern United States, with close to 90% of that nesting occurring in Florida. Important nesting of the Loggerhead also occurs in the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Turkey and Israel.

The Pacific Loggerhead is found in the temperate waters of both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Like the Atlantic Loggerhead, it is found feeding in coastal, near-shore areas along the western coasts of the Americas, around Australia, and in the Middle East. The dividing line between the two sub-species of the loggerhead appears to be South America.

The primary threats to the loggerhead are loss of nesting habitat to beachfront development and associated artificial lighting, shrimping, long line fisheries, entanglements, pollution and being hit by boats.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtles are small sea turtles, ranging in size from 100 to 120 lbs. Unlike other species of sea turtle, they do not travel great distances between feeding and nesting areas. They are found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Nesting occurs on small islands adjacent to feeding grounds, which are typically associated with coral reefs.

Hawksbills get their name from their bird-like jaw, which they use to probe the crevices of coral reefs in search of their favorite food, sponges. They are endangered because their scutes are a primary source of tortoiseshell, used in the manufacture of jewelry and other ornamental items.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtles, ranging in size from 80 to 120 lbs. They are primarily confined to the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of the United States, as far north as New England. Adults are found in the Gulf of Mexico, feeding on the productive coastal waters from Texas to Florida. Juveniles can also be found there, but many travel north along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The primary nesting ground is Rancho Nuevo, on Mexico’s east coast. These are fast-swimming turtles that feed primarily on crabs. The carapace is what distinguishes them from other species of sea turtles by its circular shape.

The Kemp’s ridley and Olive ridley sea turtles are the only two species of sea turtle to nest in large groups all at once.  This mass nesting is called an arribada. In the Kemp’s ridley, these arribadas are no longer seen, due to the severe reduction in this species’ population size. These are the most endangered species of sea turtle. Because of their daytime mass nesting, populations of females and their eggs have been nearly wiped out by poachers in only a few decades.

Leatherback Sea Turtles

Leatherback Sea Turtles are found throughout the world in all oceans, as far north as Alaska. Leatherback nesting occurs primarily in tropical locations such as New Guinea, Indonesia, Central America and Costa Rica but also includes the East coast of Florida.

The leatherback is the largest species of sea turtle, with an average weight of 1300 lbs. Its name derives from the turtle’s leathery shell. In addition to being soft, it has seven longitudinal ridges. Male loggerheads, as with all species of sea turtle, have a tail that extends past their shell. These enable the turtle to adapt to deep diving and constant swimming.

Leatherbacks are able to tolerate colder temperatures better than other species by using their large size to generate heat. They deposit more clutches, eggs laid in one nest, per individual than other species of sea turtle –  between 50 and 120 eggs per clutch. A large number of these eggs are infertile, but it is not known why female leatherbacks lay these infertile eggs.

Leatherbacks are critically endangered, especially in the Pacific Ocean where the long line fisheries for swordfish and tuna entangle and kill thousands of migrating Leatherbacks each year. However, Leatherback nesting is on the increase in Florida with an average of 50 nests laid on Florida’s east coast each year.

Bailey a sea turtle

Bailey


Species:  Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin:  Bailey’s Bluff, Holiday FL

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Weight: 78 kilograms/170 pounds

Favorite Food: Squid

 

Bailey joined the Clearwater Marine Aquarium family in November, 1989. Upon arrival, Bailey had pneumonia, a fractured front flipper, and a buoyancy disorder. Bailey overcame many of his initial challenges, but unfortunately still retains his buoyancy disorder. Although many think that Bailey has air trapped in the back of his carapace, causing him to float, he actually suffers from paralysis that affects his buoyancy. We believe that Bailey was pulled up into a fishing net, and then dropped onto his back when the fishermen unloaded the contents of the net onto the deck of the boat. Because his spine is fused with his carapace, he sustained permanent damage to his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from mid carapace down. This has caused long term difficulty with his GI tract that requires regular assessment. Bailey loves to receive attention (both verbal and tactile!) from our staff, interns, and volunteers. His favorite source of enrichment is a giant red PVC heart that sea turtle rehabilitation interns made for him. Bailey helps the public realize the impacts commercial fishing can have on marine life. It is important to support sustainable fishing practices that help minimize marine animal by-catch.

 

Bailey a sea turtle
Harold a green sea turtle

Harold "Mavis"


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Pinellas County, Florida

Sex: Male

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 28 kilograms/62 pounds

Favorite Food: Leafy greens/Capelin

Harold was found crawling on the beach in an overall healthy condition. However, when he was found he had a fibropapilloma tumor on his neck. He was admitted into Clearwater Marine Aquarium on July 18, 2010. Surgery to remove the tumors was performed successfully. Harold recovered from surgery and no new tumor growth was noted. However, Harold was unable to find and forage for food on his own. He went to the University of Florida for further testing and it was discovered he had some neurological issues affecting his eyesight, meaning his eyes can see, but the information is not getting processed. Because vision impairment would limit his ability to forage and avoid predators in the wild, Harold is not considered releasable. Harold then became a permanent resident at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He is a busy turtle, often preferring to swim laps in the habitat while other turtles take naps.

Mavis from Dolphin Tale 2

Besides enjoying his backrubs, Harold also enjoys the life of a movie star with his role of Mavis in Dolphin Tale 2. Harold does get a little special attention for being a movie star by volunteers and interns. The sea turtle rehabilitation interns recently made enrichment just for him: a large floating PVC pipe shaped like a star and painted gold, for their favorite movie star. Harold will swim with it and rub his shell on the edges, but the star often gets “borrowed” by other turtles in the exhibit to play with.

Madam a Kemp's ridley sea turtle

Madam


Species: Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Origin: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Sex: Female

Age: Adult (28)

Weight: 40 kilograms/90 pounds

Favorite Food: Capelin/Squid

 

Madam is one of the most social turtles we have here at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, likely because she has spent her entire life as one of our residents! In the late 1980’s the aquarium was involved in a captive breeding program. On August 6, 1988, Madam hatched here at the aquarium. Because Madam has spent her whole life in our care, she is not able to be released into the wild, as she would not have the life skills necessary to survive.  Madam loves when our interns and volunteers surprise her with some ice toys! She is very smart and has progressed the furthest in her voluntary medical management program. Because Madam was hatched at the aquarium, she is the only turtle whose age we know. On August 6, 2016, Madam celebrated her 28th birthday. Her favorite type of enrichment is a sunken upright hula-hoop made of flexible dive hose that she rubs her back on.

Madam a Kemp's ridley sea turtle
Rob a Kemp's ridley sea turtle

Rob


Species: Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Origin: Crystal River Power Plant in Citrus County, Florida

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Weight: 26 kilograms/57 pounds

Favorite Food: Squid

 

Rob was found on September 3, 2001, and admitted to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Rob, who was a juvenile at the time, weighed only 7 lbs, and had a wound to both his upper and lower jaw on his right side. Although this was an old wound that was healed over, the rhombus on his top jaw was sliced all the way down to the bone. His injuries made him difficult to feed in the beginning, but things began to turn around when he began foraging on his own in mid-November. Rob had two minor surgeries in 2008 to ensure his jaw would heal entirely with no future problems. Today, Rob has come a long way from the 7 lb little guy that stranded in 2001. Rob continues to have some difficulty catching his food and eating it easily, so he remains at the aquarium to ensure he gets a diet to fit his needs. Rob is a very easygoing turtle who loves his squid, and spends most of his time napping. Rob shares an exhibit with another male Kemp’s Ridley, Max. His favorite type of enrichment is finding different hideaways and shelters in his exhibit. Rob helps guests at the aquarium better understand the impact boats can have on marine life. It is important to obey all boating regulations and look out for wildlife that we share the waterways with in order to decrease boat strike incidents with marine animals.

Stubby the sea turtle

Stubby


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Duval County on the east coast of Florida

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Weight: 69 kilograms/150 pounds

Favorite Food: Leafy greens/Squid

 

Stubby was picked up by Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) and brought to Clearwater Marine Aquarium on May 9, 2001, because she had sustained severe injuries from a monofilament fishing line entanglement. Both of her front flippers were missing and pieces of her rear flippers had been nibbled off. Stubby’s wounds healed, but she continued to float and is unable to dive because she lacks front flippers, the power flippers, that help her swim and dive. Even though she has had to greatly adjust how she gets around, Stubby is one of the friendliest turtles at the aquarium. She quickly swims over to “greet” anyone who visits her pool, she loves eating greens, blowing bubbles and receiving a lot of tactile from our interns and volunteers during her feeding sessions. Her favorite kind of enrichment is a simple floating square. She will carry it on her back, sometimes for the whole day if she likes. Monofilament fishing line takes over 600 years to decompose in the environment. Please consider Stubby’s experience and take the extra time to properly dispose of extra fishing line into designated fishing line recycling containers.

Stubby the sea turtle
Sea turtle species and protection status
Max a Kemp's ridley sea turtle

Max


Species: Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Origin: St. Petersburg, Florida

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Weight: 28 kilograms/60 pounds

Favorite Food: Capelin/Squid

 

Max has been a resident at Clearwater Marine Aquarium since January 12, 1984, making him one of the first resident turtles at CMA. Max sustained a very severe head injury that unfortunately left him mostly blind, and as a result he was unable to be released. Max has had to make adjustments to find his food and often takes a little longer than others to eat. He can see best out of his right eye and often circles to the right to see around his habitat. Max most often lives with another Kemp’s ridley, Rob. They are often found sleeping together in their favorite spot. He is a more active sea turtle and often will be found cruising through the water while the other turtles take naps. His favorite source of enrichment is eating ice toys colored with food dye.

titus a green sea turtle

Titus


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Titusville on the east coast of Florida

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Weight: 67 kilograms/147 pounds

Favorite Food: Leafy greens

 

Titus was brought to Clearwater Marine Aquarium from Titusville, FL on January 14, 2002. She had an old propeller injury, a few small treatable Fibropapilloma tumors, and a buoyancy disorder because of the injury to her shell. Titus had her tumors surgically removed, and she was transported to MOTE in March 2007 in order to see how she would adapt to a deep water environment, and evaluate whether or not she would be able to be released. Once it was determined that Titus would not be a candidate for release due to her inability to remain submerged, she was returned to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to become a permanent member of our sea turtle family. Titus loves to eat greens and likes to submerge herself under rocks and ledges in her habitat to take naps. She is smart turtle and is progressing very steadily through her training program for medical management. Although you cannot see where Titus was once injured from a boat strike, she helps show that boats can cause lasting damage even long after the initial injury has healed.

titus a green sea turtle
Cocoa a sea turtle swimming

Cocoa


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Cocoa Beach, Florida

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Weight: 80 kilograms/175 pounds

Favorite Food: Leafy greens/Capelin/Squid

 

Our gentle giant, Cocoa, was found by a fisherman floating near the Hanlover Canal on February 28, 1999. Cocoa had deep propeller damage to his head, his right front flipper and plastron. Recovered by the Coast Guard, he arrived at Clearwater Marine Aquarium on March 1, 1999. Upon closer examination of his wounds, it was found that the most severe injuries were sustained on his head. The wound went through the roof of his skull, through his left eye, and down through his maxilla. Cocoa also had a variety of issues including a broken ulna in his right front flipper, a semi-healed fractured radius in his left front flipper, a ruptured right eye, and severed edges of the maxilla that would need to be surgically rejoined. Although Cocoa has overcome many obstacles, the trauma he received to his head did a substantial amount of damage, leaving him completely blind. Cocoa regained normal mobility in his flippers, and while he has the ability to swim normally, dive, and rest on the bottom, he is a unique case because he cannot forage nor locate food on his own. Every day, one of our volunteers gets into the pool with Cocoa and ensures he eats his squid, fish, and greens. This is not just an exciting experience for our volunteers, but for Cocoa as well, because he loves getting his back scrubbed and any form of tactile enrichment. Although sea turtles are big and have thick shells, they are no match for man-made vessels like motor boats. Humans are considered the greatest threat to sea turtles, and Cocoa helps teach this to guests that come through the aquarium.

Ula a green sea turtle

Ula


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Pinellas County, Florida

Sex: Female

Age: Sub-adult

Weight: 43 kilograms/ 95 pounds

Favorite Food: Squid

 

Ula was found by a boater floating at the surface in Pinellas County on April 2, 2013, covered in moss. When found, she had a carapace deformity where instead of having a smooth, rounded shell, it is humped in the middle. She has the ability to dive but is unable to remain submerged due to air trapped in the shell, thus making her non-releasable. Likely she encountered a trauma in the wild, possibly a boat strike, and then the carapace healed itself, but misshaped. Turtles are amazingly resilient animals. The shell was completely healed when she reached the aquarium. Ula was a picky eater initially, and has a specialized diet of romaine lettuce, avocado, and zucchini; however, her favorite food is squid. One byproduct of the damage to her shell and spinal cord, which is fused to the back of her shell, is that she is hyper-sensitive to touch on the rear end of her shell. She is a fan of all kinds of enrichment, but especially things she can rub her back on – it must tickle!

Ula a green sea turtle
Cupid a green sea turtle

Cupid


Species: Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Origin: Franklin County, Florida

Sex: Unknown

Age: Juvenile

Weight: 23 kilograms/50 pounds

Favorite Food: Leafy greens

Cupid was stranded February 14, 2010 and found by Florida by Alligator Point Turtle Patrol. He was found with many abrasions to his face, a lot of barnacles on his carapace and a previous healed injury to his left rear flipper. Cupid was transferred to Clearwater Marine Aquarium in July 2010 from Gulf World Marine Park. Upon arrival he was also treated for a buoyancy disorder. He underwent multiple therapies to try to fix the buoyancy disorder however, none were successful and Cupid was deemed non-releasable. Cupid is well known for stealing food from other turtles during meal time. He is still growing and thus has a large appetite. Cupid’s favorite type of enrichment, aside from extra food, is a floating PVC pipe, shaped like an X with car wash strips that resemble seaweed dangling from it. He likes to swim under it and rub his flippers and shell on the seaweed strips. Cupid is still considered a juvenile, based on the size of his shell. We won’t know if Cupid is actually a boy or a girl until Cupid reaches adult size several years from now and we will be able to tell by the length of his tail: if it’s long he’s a male, or if it’s short, she’s a female.

Hours icon

Hours

Daily Presentations:

10:00am – Meet our Turtles (Turtle Cove)

12:00pm – Turtle Bayou

3:00pm – Sea Turtle Presentation (Sawyer’s Passage)

4:30pm – Sea Turtle Anatomy Game (Sawyer’s Passage)

 

Presentation times are subject to change.

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Location

Turtle Cove

Cocoa

Turtle Bayou

Bailey

Sawyer’s Passage

Max & Rob

Mavis’ Rescue Hideaway

Cupid, Harold “Mavis,” Madam, Stubby, Titus and Ula

Behind the Scenes

Observe sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation as you walk through our open-air critical care facility, (closed to the general public) and discover our future plans to learn how you can help Clearwater Marine Aquarium ensure an even brighter future for our marine environment.

Dolphin webcam

Watch Live Webcams of Winter, Hope, Nicholas, Otters and Sea Turtles!

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