Florida Manatees: Trichechus Manatus Latirostris
One of the important animals that live along the Florida coast and in its rivers is the Florida manatee. Manatees are non-aggressive, non-territorial herbivores that spend most of their time feeding (6 - 8 hours a day) and resting (2 - 12 hours a day). The remainder of the day is spent traveling, investigating objects and interacting with other manatees. Manatees do not have "biting" teeth, but they have only "grinding" teeth. All of their teeth are molars, which are constantly being replaced. New teeth come in at the back of their mouth and move forward about one centimeter a month. The tooth replacement is an adaptation of the manatee's diet, which consumes marine plants that may also contain a lot of sand. Manatees can move each side of its lip independently, which allows it to grab the marine plants and draw them into their mouths. Manatees are mammals, which means that the must come to the surface to breathe. The surface approximately every five minutes to breathe. However, they can hold their breathe for as long as twenty minutes when resting. Manatees do not have eyelashes, however they have a nictitating membrane that closes over their eyes for protection. Manatees have a good sense of hearing even though they do not have external ear lobes. Manatees use their flippers and tail to steer itself through the water and moves its tail up and down to propel itself forward.
Sea turtles have inhabited the earth's waters for millions of years. Sea turtles are reptiles, meaning they have scales and a bony shell, are cold-blooded, breathe air, and lay eggs on land. Sea turtles live for long periods of time but scientists are not certain their life spans as sea turtles can outlive the scientists. Currently, five of the eight recognized species of sea turtle can be found in the waters surrounding Florida. The Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and Kemp's Ridley can be found surrounding Florida all can be assigned as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
for its unusually large head, the loggerhead is the most widely seen sea turtle in South Florida. The carapace, top shell, and flippers are usually a reddish-brown color while their plastron, bottom shell is yellow. Loggerheads have been seen nesting one to seven times during the nesting season, which runs from May through August here in the United States. Loggerhead turtles can be seen throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. These turtles may be found hundreds of miles out to sea, but they have been seen in areas close to shore in bays, lagoons, and salt marshes. Loggerheads are listed as threatened due to the loss or degradation of nesting habitats from development; marine pollution; watercraft strikes; sickness.
Often referred to as the champion of all sea turtles, the leatherback turtle grows the largest, dives the deepest, and travels the furthest. Leatherbacks are also the only sea turtles without a hard shell, making them very susceptible to harm. Adults of this species can grow 4 to 8 feet in length and can weigh 500 to 2000 pounds. Females nest an average of 5 to 7 times within a nesting season, which occurs from March to July in the United States. The leatherback can be seen worldwide from the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They have been found in small numbers in British Columbia, Newfoundland, the British Isles, Australia, Cape of Good Hope, and Argentina.
Green Sea Turtle:
One of the largest of the eight species of sea turtles, the green turtle used to be common throughout warmer waters of the world. Today, its numbers are a fraction of what they once were due to the severe hunting for their colorful shells and meat. The breeding populations in Florida and on the Pacific Coast of Mexico are listed as endangered, while all others are listed as threatened. The green sea turtle has been documented to grow to a maximum of about 4 feet and weigh 440 pounds. The shell is considered heart-shaped in appearance. Hatchlings will eat a variety of plants and animals, while adults will feed exclusively on marine plants and grasses. An adult female green sea turtle may lay up to nine nests in one season, which runs from June through September. Green sea turtles can be found in seen in shallow waters inside reefs.
Hawksbill Turtle: Eretmochelys Imbricata
The Hawksbill sea turtle is considered endangered throughout its range, which is tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans; they are also found throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Western Atlantic Ocean. The Hawksbill is a small to medium sea turtle, with a yellow, orange, or reddish-brown coloration in its carapace. The head of a Hawksbill is quite small with a distinctive hawk-like beak. They feed mostly on sponges. An adult Hawksbill turtle may reach up to 3 feet in length and weigh up to 300 pounds. An adult female can lay an average of 4.5 nests per season, which occurs between April and November in the United States. Hawksbills are frequently found in rocky areas, coral reefs, and shallow coastal waters.
Kemp's Ridley Lepidocheyls kempii
The endangered Kemp's Ridley turtle is one of the smallest sea turtles, with full-grown adults reaching about 2 feet in length and weighing around 100 pounds. The carapace is usually olive gray in coloration. This turtle has a triangular-shaped head with a hooked beak, which allows for the diet of mostly crabs. Some females nest an average of 1 to 4 times a season, which occurs from April to June. The range of this turtle includes the Gulf coasts of Mexico and the United States, and the Atlantic coast of North America. The Kemp's Ridley is the most seriously endangered of all the sea turtles.