Sea turtles are gentle and mesmerizing ocean reptiles. You heard right, ocean reptiles.
They breathe air and lay eggs on land, but these dinosaur age survivors spend most of their lives cruising through the sea.
They are generally considered slow and chilled swimmers, but these majestic and ancient reptiles have a few speedy tricks up their sleeves.
How Fast Can Sea Turtles Swim?
Sea turtles generally Swim between 2.8km/h and 10km/h fast. However, when sea turtles are being chased or facing danger, sea turtles can swim as fast as 35 kilometres an hour.
Are Sea Turtles Fast Swimmers?
The average speed of a sea turtles lies between 3km an hour to 10km an hour. When in trouble, they can speed off at 35km an hour. That’s a pretty big jump from their regular 10km an hour but is not exactly what we would consider fast. It’s safe to say that speed isn’t what sea turtles are aiming for here. They enjoy cruising through the waters, finding yummy jellyfish or crabs to munch on, and keep the underwater zooming for emergencies.
Why And How Do They Swim So Fast?
While sea turtles aren’t considered fast swimmers, they are thought of as powerful swimmers with bodies that have perfectly adapted to life underwater. There are certain features sea turtles possess to make them more hydrodynamic. Firstly, their four limbs and head don’t retract into their shell like they do for tortoise or their freshwater relatives. Instead they are fixed outside the shell. Sea turtles also have long and strong flippers instead of webbed feet. Their front flippers are strongest and used to propel themselves forward, while their smaller back flippers help them steer. Lastly their shells are streamlined and are shaped to glide through water efficiently.
One also has to take into account that sea turtles do require air to breathe, meaning they must surface for some of that good O2. However, sea turtles’ bodies have once again adapted to make this less of a problem because they can hold their breath for 4-7 hours when not stressed. This number of course varies depending on species and size. They are cold-blooded reptiles, so their body temperature adapts and changes according to the environment they are in. Depending on the circumstances, their heart rate can slow way down (up to nine minutes between heartbeats!), oxygen in conserved, and redistributed to where it is needed most such as the heart and the brain.
All these features make them powerful underwater swimmers.
Comparison Between Different Sea Turtles
Not all sea turtles are made the same and there are currently seven sea turtle species in the world, all coming in different sizes, with differing abilities and habits. Let’s take a look at a few of these and compare them!
How Fast Can A Green Sea Turtle Swim?
Green Sea Turtles are the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles and their shell can grow to 1.4 meters in length and can weigh up to 159kg. Though they prefer to steadily cruise at 3km an hour, research has shown that Green Sea Turtles can actually reach a whopping 30km/hour if needed, though this is quite rare since they stick to wide open and coastal areas.
The Green Sea Turtle is the only herbivore amongst its species. All sea turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetation and animals such as jellyfish, plankton, and other crustaceans. However, while the Green Sea Turtle starts off as omnivorous when young, they grow up to be vegetarians and all the algae and vegetation they consume gives them their colour and name.
How Fast Can A Leatherback Sea Turtle Swim?
Leatherback Sea Turtles are considered the fastest-moving reptiles and made the 1992 Guinness Book of World Records, in which it is recorded to move 35.28km/hour. Though, once again, this is not the standard speed they move at. Leatherback Sea Turtles prefer to cruise steadily at 10km/hour.
Leatherbacks are also the largest turtles on earth and can grow up to 2 meters long, weighing over 900kg. Their name come from their unique shell, which isn’t hard but semi-flexible and has a waxy or leathery feel to it. It’s size and leathery carapace help them with their deep dives, the deepest of any sea turtle, which can be as deep as 1000m.
They only sea turtle to top this species in size and strength is Archelon, a giant sea turtle that lived about 66 million years ago and grew to be 4 meters in length.
How Fast Can A Hawksbill Sea Turtle Swim?
Hawksbill Sea Turtles are among the smaller species, with their shell size only reaching around 1 meter in length and will weigh around 68kg. These cuties can reach up to 24km/hour in speed and swim distances as far as 4,828km.
How Fast Can A Loggerhead Sea Turtle Swim?
These big reptiles come in close to the size of Green Sea Turtles and get their name from the way their heads are shaped like logs. They can also swim up to 24km/hour but prefer to ride easy with a general speed of 1.6km/hour.
Loggerheads are considered a keystone species. This means that it contributes to the survival of other animals within its ecosystem to the point where they depend on it. The shells of the invertebrates Loggerheads feed on aren’t digested, but instead passed through its system and are excreted to the bottom of the ocean for other animals to consume as a source of calcium.
How Fast Can Sea Turtles Swim In Currents?
There is not enough research to determine how fast sea turtles can swim in currents, but rather that they ride these currents as a mode of transportation. Marine biologist Dr. Michelle Boyle discovered that Australia’s Loggerhead turtles were using the East Australian Current as well as others to make round trips across the Pacific Ocean. That’s about 20,000 kilometres! There hasn’t been enough research to determine how many do this, how much they passively or actively move with the current, but this discovery was a breakthrough in shedding some light on what is considered to be the ‘lost years’ of the Loggerhead turtles.
How Far Do Sea Turtles Swim?
Sea Turtles have to travel across long distances and their abilities to hold their breaths as well as their efficiency in the water allows them to swim the great distances required for feeding and nesting. Some can even average 3000km over a span of 23 days. Most historically, the Loggerhead turtle Adelita was tracked as she made her way across the Pacific Ocean from Mexico (where she was released) close to Japan. Adelita made a journey of roughly 12,000 kilometres!
How much time to turtles spend in water?
Turtles are aquatic animals meaning they spend most if not all their lives in water. Sea turtles only come on land to nest or circumstances force them to.
Do sea turtles swim together?
Sea turtles are lone wolves, which is part of the reason they are so hard to study. They prefer solitary lives and only really come together during mating and nesting seasons.
Do sea turtles sleep underwater?
Yes they do. When resting or not stressed, sea turtles can hold their breaths for about 4-7 hours. Their heat rates slow down, and oxygen is conserved and distributed efficiently.
To conclude these beautifully gentle ocean cruisers aren’t known for the speed, but their grace and ability to migrate across great distances. Their species have seen many versions of our world. It’s pretty safe to think of them the way they are presented in Finding Nemo: big, chilled out, and eternally wise hippy creatures who love riding the currents and aren’t really in a rush to do anything.