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Sea Turtles

There are eight species of sea turtles that have existed in their current form for probably 200 million years. Sea turtles are an integral part of the folklore of many cultures, and the endan­ gered status of most of the species today has made them important animals for conservation­ ists. These animals spend their entire life in the ocean except for periodic visits to the beach, where adult females select nest sites and lay eggs. In addition, since they grow to very large sizes ranging from 35-45 kg for the smallest species, Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), to over 900 kg for the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), few behavioral studies of adults have ever been done under controlled conditions. There is, however, a growing literature on hatchling sea turtle be­ havior under natural and seminatural conditions. Most of what we know about sea turtles comes from observational studies and the reports of individuals; these serve as a natural history of these animals (Carr, 1967).