Hawsbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)

Hawsbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)

- in Underwater, Fauna
209

HAWSBILL-SEA-TURTLEITS–The hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E. imbricata bissa is found in the Indo-Pacific region.

The hawksbill’s appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. It has a generally flattened body shape, a protective carapace and flipper like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean. E. imbricata is easily distinguished from other sea turtles by its sharp, curving beak with prominent tomium and its saw like appearance of its shell margins. Hawksbill shells slightly change in colour, depending on water temperature. While this turtle lives part of its life in the open ocean, it spends more time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs.

Human fishing practices threaten E. imbricata populations with extinction. The World Conservation Union. classifies the Hawksbill as critically endangered. Hawksbill shells are the primary source of tortoise shell, used for decorative purposes. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outlaws the capture and trade of the hawksbill sea turtle and products derived from them. E. imbricata has the typical appearance of a marine turtle. Like the other members of its family, it has a depressed body form and flipper like limbs adapted for swimming.

Adult hawksbill sea turtles have been known to grow up to 1 metre (3 ft) in length, weighing around 80 kilograms (180 lb) on average. The heaviest hawksbill ever captured was measured at 127 kilograms (280 lb).  The turtle’s shell or carapace has an amber background patterned with an irregular combination of light and dark streaks, with predominantly black and mottled brown colours radiating to the sides.

The hawksbill sea turtle has several characteristics that distinguish it from other sea turtle species. Its elongated, tapered head ends in a beak like mouth (from which its common name is derived) and its beak are more sharply pronounced and hooked than others. The hawksbill’s arms have two visible claws on each flipper.

One of the hawksbill’s more easily distinguished characteristics is the pattern of thick scutes that make up its carapace. While its carapace has five central scutes and four pairs of lateral scutes like several members of its family, E. imbricata’s posterior scutes overlap in such a way as to give the rear margin of its carapace a serrated look, similar to the edge of a saw or a steak knife. The turtle’s carapace has been known to reach almost 1 metre (3 ft) in length.

Hawksbill sea turtles’ sand tracks are asymmetrical, because they crawl on land with an alternating gait. By contrast, the green sea turtle and the leatherback turtle crawl rather symmetrically. Due to its consumption of venomous cnidarians, hawksbill sea turtle flesh can be toxic

A wide range of Hawksbill sea turtles can be found predominantly in tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Of all the sea turtle species, E. imbricata is the one associated with tropical waters. Two major subpopulations are acknowledged to exist, the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific subpopulations.

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