Sea Turtle Feeding Habits
There are quite a few food sources out there for sea turtles to dine on. They are very opportunistic and will eat what they can find. There are different foods that certain species will consume or that those living in one region have access to that others don’t where they reside. The most common sources of food that they commonly share though include algae, mollusks, snails, shrimp, crab, jellyfish, and seaweed.
There are some species of sea turtles though that eat only meat and others that will eat only plants. Of course there are those species that will eat both. If you take a good look at the overall structure of the jaws, you will see that they are very similar. This allows them to easily make the necessary adaptions to their diet for survival based on what is available to them.
Green Sea Turtles and Black Sea Turtles feature jaws that are serrated so that they can consume algae and sea grass. The jaws of the Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Ridleys Sea Turtles are designed to allow them to grind and crush their food such as shrimp, mollusks, and crabs.
When you look at the design of the jaw for the Hawksbill Sea Turtle you will notice that it has a very unique angle. They also feature a very small head. The purpose of these features is to enable them to get food from coral reefs in the small crevices. Such food sources for them includes squid, shrimp, and sponges.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle features jaws that are more like scissors. They have spine like elements in the throat called papillae that allow them to swallow soft foods. Their diet includes soft bodied animals, tunicates, and jellyfish.
The sea turtle with the most diverse eating habits is the Flatback Sea Turtle. They are very opportunistic and they will eat cuttlefish, sea cucumbers, and seaweed should they have a hard time finding their normal food resources.
What is very interesting about the diet of the Green Sea Turtle is that it changes over time. When they are juveniles they are able to eat both meat and plants. However, as they mature they will turn to a diet that is purely going to consist of plants. When they do live in captivity though they can survive on meat as adults and do very well.
Sea turtles may have to dive to significant depths in order to find food. However, their bodies are designed in a manner that won’t allow them to trap harmful gases as they do so. They can also go for very long periods of time without needing to get air. This is one of their survival techniques that has helped them to survive in all types of living conditions.
Due to their habitat in salt water for many sea turtles, their diet can be one that has a great deal of salt in it too. Their bodies are designed though to remove salt through a gland. Some species of them have it on the tongue, some in the nostrils, and some in the corner of the eyes. This is very important as some of the foods they consume have a very high salt content.
In captivity, most sea turtles are fed a diet of only meat and they seem to do well on it. This is very interesting to researchers though as it could indicate that if necessary the various species of sea turtles could adapt in the wild and engage in different feeding patterns than they currently do if they had to in order to survive in a given habitat.