American Oceans

What Sea Turtles Eat

Sea turtles are fascinating creatures. There are seven sea turtle species. One thing that makes each species unique is what they eat and how they digest their food.

a sea turtle eating seaweed

Unfortunately, nearly all seven types of sea turtles are endangered, which is why it’s so important that more people educate themselves on their needs, including what they eat.

So, what do sea turtles eat?

Below, read about the diets of adult green sea turtles, Kemp Ridley sea turtles, and other kinds. Discover what sea turtles eat and more. Soon you’ll be a sea turtle expert!

How Do Sea Turtles Eat?

Did you know that sea turtles don’t have teeth? However, they can eat vegetation, other small sea creatures, and more.

sea turtle feeding on sea grass

Like most turtle species, most sea turtles use their sharp beaks or jaws to trap and bite off their food. 

Their jaws can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure, so turtles use them to crush their food and break them into bite-size pieces.

Their digestive systems work similarly to other vertebrates. Food travels down the gullet and esophagus to the two-chambered stomach.

There, turtles secrete acid to break down the food.

Green Sea Turtle

Adult and juvenile green sea turtles eat different things. While the young ones eat some small animals, adults eat only plants.

a green sea turtle on the seashore

Their beaks resemble saws, which they use to scrape algae off rocks

They also eat seaweed, sea grasses, and other greenery. They use their serrated beaks to tear the roughage.

You can find green sea turtles worldwide in temperate and subtropical waters.

Leatherback Sea Turtle

You can sometimes identify leatherback sea turtles by their beaks, and they live in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

are leatherback turtles endangered?

Both the top and bottom beaks have pointed cusps, which are adaptive. 

They help them catch and eat their prey, primarily composed of gelatinous foods. Leatherback sea turtles eat jellyfish and similar creatures, like sea squirts. 

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Like Leatherbacks, adult loggerhead sea turtles are mainly carnivores and eat horseshoe crabs and other hard-shelled prey, like conchs.

Loggerhead in pacific ocean

They have enormous heads and strong jaws to crush the shells.

The younger loggerheads also eat some plants. You can spot loggerheads in the temperate and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Mediterranean. 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill sea turtles are less common, found almost exclusively in the Caribbean Sea and Indo-Pacific Oceans.

hawksbill turtle critical status

Their diet consists primarily of sponges, which they eat from coral reefs.

They have a bird-like beak that’s sharp and narrow, allowing them to reach into the tiny cracks in the reef to find food.  

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

This sea turtle species lives in tropical waters around the world.

Olive Ridley Turtle dead by predator on beach

Olive Ridley sea turtles eat many different foods since they’re omnivores, and they’ll chow down on fish eggs, sea sponges, small fish, urchins, and hard-shelled organisms like lobster.

Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle

Unlike the olive ridleys, kemp’s ridley sea turtles are strict carnivores, even the young ones.

kemps ridley sea turtle

They prefer to eat crabs and use their strong mouths and jaws to crush hard-shelled prey.

When crabs aren’t available, they’ll eat other soft-bodied organisms in their home, mainly in the Gulf of Mexico.

Flatback Sea Turtle

Flatback sea turtles live almost exclusively in the waters around Australia and Papua New Guinea. Even though they live in a small area, they have a broad, omnivorous diet.

Big adult female Flatback Sea Turtle

They will eat sea cucumbers, soft coral, shrimp, small fish, soft-bodied invertebrates, and even seaweed.

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