Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures. The seven species found today have been around 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The sea turtle’s shell or “carapace” is streamlined for swimming through the water, but unlike other turtle’s, sea turtle’s cannot retract their legs and head into the shell. Sea turtle’s do not have teeth, but their jaws have modified “beaks” suited to their specific diet.
Sea turtles have long fascinated people and have figured prominently in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. Regrettably, the spiritual significance has not prevented them from being exploited for both food and profit. At one time millions of sea turtle’s roamed the earth’s oceans, but now only a fraction remain.
Seagrass beds are important feeding and breeding habitats for many marine species including sea turtles. Unfortunately, seagrass beds have been on the decline both in the Caribbean and the East Coast of the USA. They also tend to be relatively sensitive indicators of water quality and researchers are studying trends in seagrass abundance to determine the ongoing impact by humans. In addition to pollution, seagrass beds are extremely vulnerable to damage by boat propellers and anchors.