The Hawksbill Sea Turtle | Eating Habits
Seventy-five percent of a Hawksbill sea turtle’s diet consists mostly of sponges. This is the reason why Hawksbills are rarely found in waters deeper than 65 feet; as the coastlines they live in usually contain an abundant supply of sponges for their consumption. Coastlines and coral reef habitats also provide solid substrate which sponges grow on.
The Hawksbill sea turtle tends to be very selective when it comes to its food choices. This characteristic of the Hawksbill turtle is a contributing factor to its declining population. It eats only certain species of sponges, some of which are fatal to other animals. The toxins found in the sponges it consumes is then stored in its flesh. This is why the consumption of Hawksbill flesh for humans and other predators can be fatal and lead to food poisoning. Other common dietary choices for the Hawksbill are coelenterates and sea jellies.
Hawksbill sea turtles are omnivores. This means that they consume both meat and plants. Though they have an affinity for sponges, they also like to eat crustaceans, sea anemones, cnidarians, sea urchins, small sea grasses, mussels, tunicates, shrimps, horseshoe crabs, clams, octopuses, clams, squid, marine algae, and other sea plants and animals. Hawksbills even feed on dead marine animals and plants from the bottom of the ocean. One of the favourite feeding grounds of Hawksbills sea turtles is in shallow shoals which are thick with brown algae.
The mouth of the Hawksbill turtle is more hooked and sharply pronounced than other marine turtles. It is the narrow shape of the Hawksbill’s jaws and head that permit it to obtain food from crevices found in coral reefs. Their powerful jaws make it easy for them to crush the hard shell of their prey. While migrating through the sea, Hawksbills feast on jellyfish, floating molluscs, floating egg clusters and flying fish. Though Hawksbills are not considered fish eaters, they do consume small fish and fish parts. It is not uncommon for the Hawksbill to be seen feeding on the Man O’ War. The thick, scaly skin of the Hawksbill prevents the Man O War’ stinger from penetrating it and releasing its venom.
It is important to note the importance of the effect of the eating habits of Hawksbill sea turtles on our environment. Due to their regular consumption of sponges, succession occurs in reefs and space is freed up for settlement of other organisms in the area. Their absence in the food cycle would cause great disruption to our world.
One cause of death for Hawksbill sea turtles is wrongful or mistaken consumption of food. Given that they are omnivorous, Hawksbills have often mistakes objects such as debris, balloons and other plastic material pieces as food. Many Hawksbill sea turtles have become ill or have died as a result of human recklessness and irresponsibility. Now that we are aware of the grave implications of our actions, what is important is that we take action and try to rectify the mistakes we have made, that we might save and prolong the life of this beautiful creature.