Blog Post By: Aidan Colligan, Sea Turtle Intern
Loggerhead sea turtles reach maturity at around thirty years of age when they can lay their first clutch of eggs. It is during this time that loggerheads disperse to coastal foraging grounds to live the rest of their lives. Along our coast, they are found in waters directly offshore and in estuaries. As an adult, their diet switches to primarily hard-shelled invertebrates such as crustaceans, horseshoe crabs, whelks, mussels, and clams. They will also forage for jellyfish, squid, sponges and rarely algae throughout the rest of their life. Loggerheads usually sleep by resting on a solid surface such as the seafloor. While sleeping, less energy is used allowing the sea turtle to save oxygen and stay submerged for over 4 hours. However, they must surface for air more often when active at least once every 30-45 minutes.
During breeding season, loggerheads migrate seasonally to offshore waters adjacent to their nesting beaches. Although loggerheads do not always nest on the same beach they were born, they use the earth’s magnetic fields to navigate to the same coastline. Females will mate with multiple males prior to any nesting activity usually between March to June in South Carolina. Mating can be aggressive with males fighting and biting each other over a female. Internal egg development begins soon after and concludes with the loggerhead coming ashore to deposit the clutch of eggs. Loggerheads usually lay three to five clutches per nesting season with each new clutch taking two weeks to develop between each nesting event.
After finishing their last nest of the season, female loggerheads will not lay another nest for two to three years. This cycle will be repeated for the entirety of the loggerhead’s life. While the maximum lifespan of the loggerhead is not known for certain, it is speculated they can live to well over 80 years and possibly over 100 years old. They are capable of reproducing until at least 90 years of age, if not the entirety of their life. While the lifecycle of the loggerhead might seem repetitive to us, turtles are creatures of habit with a small instinct-based brain.
Sea Turtle Biologist