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Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies
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Sea Turtles of South Carolina

4 Species of Marine Turtles in South Carolina


(Carretta carretta)

Classification: Threatened
Size: 200 – 350 lbs. and 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet long shell, or carapace.
Coloration: Reddish-brown carapace, dull brown to yellow plastron. 
Other Distinguishing Characteristics:
Large skull which can be up to 10” wide
Diet: No teeth, but powerful jaws crush, bite and tear crustaceans including horseshoe crabs, encrusting animals attached to rocks & reef, clams and jellyfish 
Nesting Season in SC: May until September
Nesting Sites: Most frequent nesting sea turtle in South Carolina 


(Chelonia mydas)

Classification: Threatened
Size: 300 – 500 lbs. and 3 to 5 feet long carapace; 2nd largest sea turtle in the world
Coloration: Various color patterns, dark brown to olive, spotted or marbled with variegated rays
Other Distinguishing Characteristics: Named for color of fat
Diet: Only adult turtle with diet of sea grasses and algae 
Nesting Season in SC: June until September 
Nesting Sites: Occasional nester in South Carolina


(Dermochelys coriacea)

Classification: Endangered 
Size: 700 -2,000 lbs. and 4 to 8 feet long carapace; largest reptile in the world 
Coloration: Black with white spotted carapace 
Other Distinguishing Characteristics: Leathery shell with 7 ridges running the length of the shell; can dive over 3,000 feet 
Diet: Jellyfish and commonly seen in SC waters feeding on cannonball jellyfish
Nesting Season: March to July 

Kemp’s Ridley 

(Lepidochelys kempii)

Classification: Most endangered sea turtle
Size: 77-100 lbs. and ~ 2 feet long carapace; smallest sea turtle in the world
Coloration: Grayish black to olive green carapace 
Other Distinguishing Characteristics: Most common stranding marine turtle in South Carolina
Diet: Fast swimming crabs, e.g. blue crabs 
Nesting Season: April to June 
Nesting Sites: 1 nest in South Carolina in 1992


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