Know your sea turtles in Barbados
Sea Turtles are great survivors and have inhabited the seas around the world for over 150 million years, evolving from land roaming creatures, which took to the sea to outlive the dinosaurs. The huge Archelon turtle, which lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, measured an enormous 4 metres long and 4.9 metres wide and is imagined to have been similar in most other respects to today’s Leatherback turtle.
Today, there are seven different species of sea turtles around the world and, regrettably, most have become endangered or critically endangered thanks largely to our own actions over the years.
Fortunately, Barbados is home to three species, the Hawksbill, the Green Turtle and the Leatherback but how do you tell them apart? Here’s a quick guide:
Hawksbill Sea Turtle – Eretmochelys imbricata
The Hawkbill Sea Turtle is the most common species in Barbados and has a heart shaped shell on its body which changes a little as it gets older with the heart shape becoming longer. The head is small and tapered with a mouth that resembles the beak of a bird. The Hawksbill has two pairs of scales along the front of its body and small claws on its front flippers. This is a relatively small sea turtle with an overall size of less than a metre and weighing between 45 to 90 kg.
Green Sea Turtle – Chelonia mydas
The Green Sea Turtle is a fairly large species with a length just short of 2 metres and weighing up to 180 kg. It has a hard shell on the outside that can be quite colourful on the top with shades of red and orange. Green sea turtles can stay under water for as long as five hours.
Leatherback Sea Turtle – Dermochelys coriacea
The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest of all the sea turtles. Apart from its size, its main distinction from other sea turtles is that it doesn’t have a hard shell but has layers of oily skin instead. Leatherbacks also don’t have any teeth and have longer flippers than other sea turtles. Fully grown, these turtles can weigh as much as 900kg and grow to over 2 metres long.
We hope you will have the chance to meet some sea turtles on your next visit to Barbados. For further information or to help the local conservation efforts, please visit the Barbados Sea Turtle Project website.