Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill turtle, Malaysia
A hawksbill turtle near Sipadan Island, Malaysia. (Photo: Nicolas J. Pilcher)

Status: Critically Endangered (A2bd)

Basic Info: Named for its sharp, pointed beak, the hawksbill feeds primarily on reef sponges, invertebrate organisms whose bodies contain tiny indigestible glass needles. The hawksbill has a beautiful, translucent shell, which has long been exploited for use in tortoiseshell jewelry. Though international trade of tortoiseshell has been prohibited, illegal trafficking continues.

Circumglobal; nesting areas in tropics, non-nesting range is generally restricted to tropical regions, although during immature stages it extends to sub-tropical regions

Adults: Length 75-90 cm; mass up to 150 kg
Hatchlings: Length approximately 30 mm; mass approximately 5 g

Large juveniles and adults predominantly eat sponges and other sessile invertebrates associated with coral reefs and rocky reefs

* Reproduce every 2-4 years
* Lay 2-5 clutches of eggs per season
* Lay 120-200 eggs per clutch
* Ping-pong ball size eggs with approximately 25-30
* Incubation period is approximately 60 days long

* Hawksbills are the only marine consumer whose diet predominantly comprises sponges, and thus play a major role in tropical, coral reef ecosystems
* Hawksbills commonly nest within beach vegetation on secluded, low-energy beaches
* Hawksbills in the Eastern Pacific are probably the most endangered sea turtle population in the world.

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