The loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta belongs to the family Cheloniidae and is one of the seven species of sea turtles that exist. It is found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
Their skin ranges from yellow to brown in color, and the shell is typically reddish-brown. The average Caretta caretta measures around 90 cm long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to 280 cm have been found. The adult sea turtle weighs approximately 135 kg (298 lbs), with the largest specimens weighing in at more than 450 kg (992 lbs).
The loggerhead sea turtle is omnivorous, feeding mainly on bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as gastropods, bivalves, and decapods, sponges, corals, sea anemones, cephalopods, barnacles, brachiopods, isopods, insects, bryozoans, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish, algae, and vascular plants.
The sea turtles Caretta caretta inhabit waters with surface temperatures ranging from 13.3-28.0 °C during non-nesting season. Temperatures from 27-28 °C are most suitable for nesting females.
Females first reproduce between the ages of 17 and 33 and their estimated maximum lifespan is 47-67 years.
The nesting season begins in May and ends in October when the young turtles head to the sea. Each turtle will return to the area it has chosen to lay its eggs every two to three years and during each egg-laying season, turtles lay two to three times. Using their rear flippers, they make their nests about 60 centimeters deep in sandy beaches. Every nest holds up to 120 eggs and incubation lasts 55 days.
The loggerhead turtle is an endangered species protected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Among the threats that loggerhead turtles face in Greece, first and foremost is the environmental devastation of the ecosystems that host them due to coastal and tourist development on nesting beaches as well as the proliferation of artificial lighting which disorients the young turtles, erosion and climate change which also threaten the turtles’ ecosystems and nesting beaches. Additional anthropogenic threats are the accidental entrapment in fishing gear, speedboat injuries and intentional killing by fishermen.
Marine pollution is another important threat. Specifically, plastic bags degrading the marine ecosystem can lead turtles to their death, as the plastic bags get mistaken for jellyfish—one of the loggerhead’s favorite meals— and ingested.
In Corfu, Caretta caretta turtles are frequently found at the western sandy beaches (such as Arkoudilas at Lefkimi, Vitalades, Perivoli, Marathias, Agios Georgios of Argyrades, Issos, Chalikounas of Agios Matheos, Sidari etc. Some nesting points were also spotted in 2015 at the eastern coasts of the island (Benitses).