Sea turtles in Canada? Yes, you read that right! While most pictures and videos we see of sea turtles are of them nesting on beaches or swimming in tropical waters, there are four species of sea turtles that can also be found along Canada’s coasts. Scroll down to meet them all.
Leatherback sea turtles
Leatherback sea turtles have been swimming around the world’s oceans for more than 90 million years. They are the largest living turtle in the world, growing to more than two metres long and weighing 900 kilograms. Their preferred food is jellyfish, but because they are not very nutritious, each turtle needs to consume enough jellyfish to match its own body weight every day! There are two genetically separate populations of leatherbacks, Pacific leatherbacks and Atlantic leatherbacks, both of which come to Canada’s oceans in the summer to feed on their favourite food – jellyfish!
Loggerhead sea turtles
Loggerhead sea turtles are named for their broad, strong heads and powerful jaws. They are generalist predators and use their muscular heads and jaws to crush the shells of their prey including conch, whelks, spiny lobster and other hard-shelled invertebrates. Loggerheads are a large hard-shelled sea turtles, rivalling the green sea turtle in size. In the warmer summer months, they can be found perusing the waters off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada.
Green sea turtles
Green sea turtles are the second largest sea turtle species, coming second to the leatherback sea turtle. The adults usually live in shallow waters where they feed on seagrasses and algae, and they’re the only sea turtle that is a strict herbivore. This diet may also be why their fat is a greenish colour, which is where their common name comes from. Green sea turtles can sometimes be found off Canada’s Atlantic coast in the summer.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the most endangered sea turtle in the world, despite the fact that females of this species nest more often than other sea turtles. It is also the smallest species of sea turtle found in Canadian waters. Kemp’s ridleys are well-known for their unique nesting behaviour. Thousands of female sea turtles come together all at once to lay their eggs on the same beach – a phenomenon that is called an “arribada.” Nearly 95 per cent of Kemp’s ridley nesting worldwide occurs in Tamaulipas, Mexico. In Canada, however, these turtles are a rare occurrence and are only found from time-to-time off Canada’s Atlantic coast during the warm summer months.