Types of predators that eat sea turtles
Sea turtles are vulnerable to a variety of predators throughout their life cycle. Predators that feed on juvenile sea turtles and their eggs range from tiny fish to large whales. Here are some of the most common predators of sea turtles:
Birds are a top predator for sea turtles in their adult and juvenile life stages. Larger birds, such as frigatebirds, seabirds and gulls, prey on both the turtles and their eggs. Smaller birds, such as the brown pelican, typically only prey on eggs. Additionally, song birds like storks and cormorants eat turtle eggs on beaches.
Fish are predators of adult and juvenile turtles in both freshwater and saltwater. Fish like sea bass, groupers, moray eels and sharks hunt turtles. Smaller fish such as imperial shrimps and wrasses prey on newly hatched turtle eggs, while bigger fish such as barracudas, swordfish and marlins look for larger sea turtles.
Marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and sharks, are known to feed on adult and juvenile sea turtles, as well as their eggs. Dolphins may use their powerful tails to flip over nesting females and eat the exposed eggs. A variety of other marine mammals, including seals, manatees and river otters, feed on both adult and baby turtles.
Invertebrates such as crabs, wasps and flies also prey on adult and baby turtles. They consume their eggs and any hatchlings making their way to the ocean. Giant hermit crabs, for example, may search for turtle eggs and eat them in great numbers.
How to Protect Sea Turtles from Predators
The best way to protect sea turtles from predators is to reduce threats to their nesting habitat. Cleaning up coastal areas and implementing regulations for sustainable fishing on the seas helps to protect sea turtles and their eggs during their life stages. Additionally, conservation efforts like medicine, habitat protection, egg relocation and safe release programs help to ensure the survival of turtles into adulthood.