Do you have a favorite sea turtle species or want to learn more about species you may not have heard about? Check out the Species Spotlight section for resources on all sea turtle species!
Sea Turtle Species Directory
Check out the NOAA Fisheries’ Species Directory to learn more information about each sea turtle species you are interested in.
The green sea turtle is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle. They are unique among sea turtles in that they are herbivores, eating mostly seagrasses and algae. This diet is what gives their fat a greenish color (not their shells), which is where their name comes from.
Hawksbill sea turtles inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of all of the world’s major ocean basins. Hawksbills get their name from their unique beak-like mouth, which resembles that of a hawk and is perfect for finding food sources in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices. They are the only species of sea turtle that can survive on a diet consisting mainly of sponges. Hawksbill turtles play a key role in the function of marine ecosystems.
Kemp’s Ridley Turtle
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest sea turtle in the world. The species is named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who first submitted the species for identification in 1906. They are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico, but juveniles are also found in the Atlantic Ocean as far north as Nova Scotia and sometimes even occur in the eastern North Atlantic.
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world. They are the only species of sea turtle that lack scales and a hard shell. They are named for their tough rubbery skin and have existed in their current form since the age of the dinosaurs. Leatherbacks are highly migratory, some swimming over 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds.
The loggerhead turtle is named for its large head, which supports powerful jaw muscles that enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. Loggerheads are the most abundant species of sea turtle that nests in the United States. Juvenile and adult loggerheads live in U.S. coastal waters, but many adults that nest on U.S. beaches migrate from neighboring nations like the Bahamas, Cuba, and Mexico.
Olive Ridley Turtle
The olive ridley gets its name from the olive green color of its heart-shaped shell. The species is among the smallest of the world’s sea turtles and is found primarily in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic ocean basins.