Five species of endangered sea turtles are found throughout the marine waters of the Florida Keys, including the hawksbill, green turtle, Kemp’s Ridley, loggerhead, and leatherback
Sea turtles have roamed Earth's oceans and seas for millions of years, with the first sea turtles appearing on Earth 150 million years ago. The ancestors of the turtles we see today entered the ocean 60 million years ago.
There are seven species of marine turtles, five of which are found in the waters off the Florida Keys. These air-breathing reptiles are well adapted to life in the marine world, with streamlined bodies and large flippers.
Male sea turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean. Adult females do return to beaches on land to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between the areas where they feed and where they nest.
The leatherback is the largest turtle and the largest living reptile in the world. Mature males and females can be as long as six and a half feet and weigh almost 2,000 pounds. The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard, bony shell. Of sea turtles with hard shells, green turtles are the largest, with adults possibly growing to more than three feet long and weighing 300-350 pounds.
All seven species of marine turtles are listed as either ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act.