Turtles of Nosara
The following information is a guide to the varying species of turtle that can be spotted in and around the Nosara coastline.
Any internet search incorporating the words ‘turtle’ and ‘Nosara’ will bring up these guys first. Neighboring Playa Ostional is one of the world’s most prominent breeding grounds for the Olive Ridley turtle, which can be spotted in the tens of thousands coming ashore to lay eggs during September and October, otherwise known as ‘Ariibada’.
The Olive Ridley’s name comes from the color of it’s shell. Adults measure between 60-70 cm in length and can weigh anywhere between 70-100 pounds. Although their habitat spans much of the western Atlantic, their home base is Costa Rica, notably the coastline in and around the Guanacaste peninsula.
Their diet consists of mollusks, crabs, shrimp, fish and occasionally seaweed, and their feeding grounds stretch from the ocean surface to the ocean depths. Although Olive Ridley turtles are a common sight in Nosara, they have still suffered an estimated 80% decline since 1966. In response to the threats these creatures faced,some decades ago the Costa Rican government declared the coastline in and around Playa Ostional, including Playa Guiones a legally protected refuge.
The Hawksbill turtle can be spotted throughout the beaches of Costa Rica along both coasts. Their preferred habitat is the warm, tropical, shallow waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. These guys are significantly larger than the Olive Ridley turtle and may grow up to 115 cm in length, and weigh up to 150 pounds. The Hawksbill takes its name from its sharp, bird-like mouth and jaw that helps it reach food in reef gaps and rock formations.
Hawksbills are omnivorous. Young Hawksbills will eat anything from mollusks, to crustaceans, marine algae, fish, sea urchins, and jellyfish. However, as they mature they eat only fish and sponge. Although their hard shells serve as protection from many predators, they can still fall victim to large fish, sharks, crocodiles, octopuses, and humans. If they manage to evade such a fate, it is estimated their life span is anywhere from 30-50 years.
Hawksbill turtles face threats ranging from habitat destruction to ocean pollution. However, the biggest threat to this species may be it’s desirability to those looking to fashion jewelry and souvenir items from its shell. Although Hawksbills are protected in most places, little has been done to prevent local craftsmen from hunting them for ornamental purposes. Like all sea-turtles, their meat and eggs are also considered a delicacy item in many towns and villages.
Pacific Green Turtle
Also known as the Eastern Pacific Green Turtle, the Galapagos Green Sea Turtle, and also the Black sea turtle, the Pacific Green is a cousin of the Atlantic Green family (Chelonia mydas) and lives in varying ocean habitats. The Green Sea Turtle takes its name from a greenish colored layer under the shell, which derives its unique shade from the chlorophyll in its diet of aquatic vegetation.. Like the Hawksbill they keep the reefs clean and tidy by trimming the vegetation growing there, using their powerful serrated jaw to chew food.
Growing up to 60 inches, and weighing in anywhere up to 700 lbs, the Pacific Green Turtle can be found throughout the Costa Rica coastline, and has a habitat that ranges throughout the Pacific, the Caribbean Sea, the Galapagos Islands, and mangrove swamps.
Their diet is herbivorous, consisting of mangroves, algae, seagrasses, and kelp, and their nesting season is pretty much all year round, mostly between December and March./The Pacific Green Turtle, along with all of its subspecies are considered endangered.
The Loggerhead Turtle ranges from the shallow waters, bays and estuaries of Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, Turkey, Bahamas, Cuba, Greece, Japan, Costa Rica and Panama. Its strong jaws are mounted on its large head, and are used to consume a carnivorous diet of crabs, mussels, shellfish and invertebrates. Its reddish-brown shell is heart-shaped, and consists of five hexagonal central scutes surrounded by 50 non-overlapping scutes on either side.
Loggerheads nest every 2 to 4 years, laying around 100 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of 60 days. Currently, the Loggerhead Turtle is considered a species at serious risk of extinction. Coastal development, light pollution (which causes hatchlings to get lost on their way to the ocean) along with plastics and over fishing make up the factors which has put this species in serious danger.
The deep diving Leather Back Turtle spans the globe, and can be found pretty much everywhere apart from Antarctica.As the name implies, the soft shelled Leatherback does not have a hard epidermal scutes over its back; but instead has a leathery covering to protect it.
These guys can get massive, and can be spotted in Costa Rica anywhere from the Osa Peninsula to Playa Ostional.
Their diet consists of Gelatinous zooplankton, jellyfish, squids, etc. Their nesting cycle involves laying between 4-7 clutches per nesting season, with approximately 60 to 70 eggs per clutch. Like so many other turtle species, the Leatherback is listed as endangered.
If you are interested about find out more about Nosara´s fauna, check this out!