Different Types of Turtles

There are a few different types of turtles in Australia.

Different Types of Turtles in Australia

Turtles evolved during the Mesozoic Era and survived the mass extinction of dinosaurs along with a few other Australian animals such as crocodiles.

The hard shell (it is hard in all species except one) that protects them against predators has certainly helped them to survive and turtles have changed very little during the last 100 million years.
Sea Turtle, Swimming Underwater, Nosy Be, North Madagascar
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Here are some pictures of turtles, information about different types of turtles in Australia, and facts about sea turtles, freshwater turtles, info on what do turtles eat, what do sea turtles eat, and what are turtle habitats.

A Freshwater Turtle Swimming Underwater
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Australian Freshwater Turtles
Australian turtles are either freshwater or saltwater species, just like crocodiles. Australian Freshwater turtles are smaller than saltwater turtles, and have clawed feet with strong webbing as opposed to the saltwater species whose legs have been modified to paddle-like flippers. There are at least 20 species of freshwater turtles in Australia, and together they cover just about all the freshwater rivers and lakes on mainland. They live mostly in permanent waterways and they lay their eggs in sand or soil, on land near water. The few species that live in temporary waters, bury themselves when the water recedes and aestivate until the rains come along again. The best time to see the freshwater turtles is in the middle of the day when they bask near water surface, or climb onto rocks and logs. Good places to watch freshwater turtles are Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory, and in the lakes on Fraser Island in Queensland.

A Sea Turtle Offers Some Protection to Small Fish in the Open Ocean
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Facts about Sea Turtles
Australian sea turtles are much larger, often more than a metre long and as the name indicates, they returned along their evolution into the sea. But they are still tied to coastal waters because their eggs are laid and hatch on the land. Australian sea turtles are found in tropical to temperate waters throughout the world. Australia’s six species of sea turtles all live in Australia’s warmer waters and each species tend to specialise in different diet.

Sea Turtle
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Different Types of Turtles: Pacific Ridley Turtle
The 60-75cm-long Pacific Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is the smallest of Australian sea turtles. It lives in tropical waters of Pacific, Indian and parts of Atlantic Ocean, and is found in Australia’s far north – the coast of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and the Top End in Northern Territory. It feeds on small crabs and shellfish. Pacific Ridley Turtle is not very abundant in Australia (where it is protected) but large rookeries are heavily exploited in Central America and the species is endangered.

Pacific Ridley Turtles Come Ashore to Lay Eggs, Costa Rica
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Different Types of Turtles: Australian Flatback Turtle
Australian Flatback Turtle (Natator depressus) is Australia’s only endemic turtle and it is found along the northern coast between Broome in west and Brisbane in east. Australian Flatback Turtle is a carnivorous turtle that eats holothurians, soft corals and jellyfish and risks to be killed by plastic bags floating in water. The species is vulnerable.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas), an Endangered Species, Hawaii, USA
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Different Types of Turtles: Green Turtle

The 1.5m-long Greene Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is Australia’s most common and largest hard-shelled sea turtle. It is also widespread in the world, and found in Australian waters along the northern, eastern and south-eastern coasts between Shark Bay in west and Streaky Bay on Eyre Peninsula in south. Juveniles are carnivorous but adults eat seagrasses and seaweeds. Green Turtle is the species most often sough for meat and eggs.

Green Sea Turtle Swimming (Chelonia Mydas), Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean
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Different Types of Turtles: Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The large-headed Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is found along Australia’s northern and south-eastern coasts between Exmouth in west and Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula in south, but is most abundant in Great Barrier Reef. Loggerhead sea turtles are mostly carnivorous and eat molluscs, crustaceans, holothurians and jellyfish. It is an endangered species and a plastic bag floating in water will kill it because it will mistake it for jellyfish.

An Endangered Loggerhead Turtle with a Missing Right Rear Flipper
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Different Types of Turtles: Leathery Turtle
Australia’s only leathery sea turtle, the Leathery Turtle, or Luth (Dermochelys coriacea) is huge – up to 2.8m long and weighs up to almost one tonne. Being such as large animal, the Leathery Turtle is unique among reptiles to be endothermic. This physiology enables the Leathery Turtle to enter cold waters and dive to extraordinary depths of more than 1100 metres. Leathery Turtle is a dietary specialist and eats only jellyfish – which makes it particularly vulnerable for plastic bags in the water. Its crucial rookeries are also heavily exploited and the species is endangered. In Australia, it is found between Rockhampton and Yorke Peninsula in the east, and between Darwin and Perth in west.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys Imbricata, Martinique, French West Indies, Caribbean Sea
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Different Types of Turtles: Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) live in tropical and temperate waters around the world, and they are found along Australian northern coasts between Exmouth in west and Eden in east. They particularly like rocky areas and coral reef. Hawksbill Sea Turtles eat mainly sponges, but also molluscs, seagrasses and soft corals. The beautiful overlapping scutes on their shell have made them popular within the tortoiseshell industry and the species is vulnerable.

Hawksbill Turtle Swimming above Reef
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Facts about Sea Turtles - Sea Turtle Eggs
Sea turtles have got an interesting reproductive system and they would be hard to see close-by if it wasn’t that they have to come to land to lay their eggs. It takes them long to mature – Loggerheads for example have to grow 30-50 years old before they can start breeding.

Green Sea Turtle Eggs in a Nest on a Beach (Chelonia Mydas), Pacific Ocean, Borneo
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Facts about Sea Turtles - Sea Turtle Nest
A few weeks after mating during the breeding season (October – February) female turtles, weighing more than 100kg, pull themselves onto the beaches, dig a hole in sand and lay about 100 leathery eggs into the hole. They cover the eggs and return to the sea, leaving the eggs to be incubated by sun that warms the sand.

Close-Up View of Baby Sea Turtle Emerging from Hole in Sand
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Facts about Sea Turtles - Baby Sea Turtle
Two or three months later (depending on the amount of sunny days), tiny baby sea turtles hatch and climb out of the nest. At the sunset they run to the water, all at once to confuse the predators such as crabs, gulls and frigatebirds. Even in the water they remain vulnerable for a long time as sharks and other predatory fish eat them.

Endangered Greenback Turtle Hatchlings Entering the Sea, Yucatan, Mexico
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What Eats Turtles and How Old Do Turtles Get
And before they are born, goannas and feral pigs often dig up turtle nests and eat the eggs. That is why 100 eggs are laid – only a few of them will survive to maturity. If they do, they have a long life ahead – turtles live for hundreds of years.

Endangerd Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia Mydas, Swimming in a Coral Reef
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Where to See Different Types of Turtles
Large turtles are some of the most amazing Australian animals to see. Good places to watch sea turtles are the islands of Great Barrier Reef. Sea turtles come to nest on Heron, Curtis, Lady Elliott and Lady Musgrave islands.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas) Swimming over a Coral Reef Among Schooling Fish, Malaysia
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Mon Repos Beach
Mon Repos Turtle Rookery outside Bundaberg on the Fraser Coast in Queensland is an excellent place to get close to sea turtles. Female turtles come to lay their eggs on the beach in every year between November and February. The young will hatch and make their way to the water between mid-January and March. During the season, the access to the beach is restricted and EPA staff takes visitors to the beach to see the turtles in action every night between 7pm and 6am.

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