The vast waters of The Bahamas team with an amazing array of marine habitats, including coral reefs and mangroves that feature a diversity of dolphins, sharks, and rays as well as sea turtles and manatees.
Sea turtles are ancient reptiles that have been on this planet for more than 100 million years, surviving multiple mass extinctions. There are seven species of these “living fossils” and they are all endangered. The most characteristic part of the sea turtle is its shell that is composed of scales called scutes. The scutes are used to identify a particular species and are hard except for the largest species, the leatherback sea turtle, in which they are flexible and rubbery. Instead of possessing teeth, sea turtles have a beak that is modified for either grazing on sea grass or for grabbing their prey such as jellies, squids, sponges, and shrimp.
Just like other reptile species, sea turtles lay eggs. Every two to three years, females come ashore a few weeks after mating, use their fore flippers to dig a body pit, and then use their hind flippers to dig a cavity in which they lay 50-200 soft-shelled eggs. The young usually hatch 45-70 days later and then make their way into the sea.
Threats to Sea turtles
Sea turtles are threatened by a large host of challenges including:
- Entanglement in fishing nets and lines
- Trash ingestion, especially plastic bags that look like jellies
- Pollution that includes oil spills and agricultural and mining runoff
- Bycatch as part of fishing operations
- Destruction of coral reefs
- Development on nesting beaches
- Climate change
How can you help?
Every Day Efforts Make a Difference
What we are doing
Atlantis is also actively breeding and releasing the endangered green sea turtle. Over 700 hatchlings have been returned to the ocean to date that will help increase wild populations.
Tour de Turtles is a fun, educational experience focusing on the migration of multiple sea turtle species using satellite telemetry. This sea turtle marathon migration starts at their nesting beaches and ends when they reach their foraging grounds: a trek that usually takes about three months.
Fans can follow the turtles’ migrations online at www.tourdeturtles.org, cheering on their favorite competitor and learning about threats sea turtles face. These threatened and endangered competitors swim with the goal of being the sea turtle to swim the furthest distance during the contest. Similar to many people who run marathons, each Tour de Turtles competitor is swimming to raise awareness about a particular cause. The Causes Challenge raises an understanding about threats to sea turtles such as boat strikes or marine pollution.