Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Caretta caretta

Photo: An endangered loggerhead sea turtle
Largest of the hard-shelled turtles, the endangered loggerhead sea turtle can be found in all but the coldest ocean waters.
Photograph by Brian J. Skerry
Map: Locator map for the loggerhead sea turtle
 Loggerhead Sea Turtle range

Fast Facts

Type: Reptile
Diet: Carnivore
Average lifespan in the wild: More than 50 years
Size: 36 in (90 cm)
Weight: 253 lbs (115 kg)
Did you know? Sea turtles can move through the water at speeds of up to 15 miles (24 kilometers) per hour.

Loggerhead turtles are the most abundant of all the marine turtle species in U.S. waters. But persistent population declines due to pollution, shrimp trawling, and development in their nesting areas, among other factors, have kept this wide-ranging seagoer on the threatened species list since 1978.

Their enormous range encompasses all but the most frigid waters of the world's oceans. They seem to prefer coastal habitats, but often frequent inland water bodies and will travel hundreds of miles out to sea.

The largest of all hard-shelled turtles—leatherbacks are bigger but have soft shells—loggerheads have massive heads, strong jaws, and a reddish-brown shell, or carapace. Adult males reach about three feet (nearly one meter) in shell length and weigh about 250 pounds (113 kilograms), but large specimens of more than 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) have been found.

They are primarily carnivores, munching jellyfish, conchs, crabs, and even fish, but will eat seaweed and sargassum occasionally.

Mature females will often return, sometimes over thousands of miles, to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs. Worldwide population numbers are unknown, but scientists studying nesting populations are seeing marked decreases despite endangered species protections.