Sea Turtle Migration

Most sea turtles migrate between foraging and nesting grounds, and seasonally to warmer waters. Often these migrations take them hundreds and even thousands of miles. With satellite telemetry, scientists can track the movements of sea turtles between areas and even across entire oceans.

The leatherback turtle is the record holder, traveling an astounding 10,000 miles or more each year in search of jellyfish, crossing the entire Pacific Ocean from Asia to the West Coast of the US to forage off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.  

Sea turtles nest in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. Both males and females will migrate to nesting areas to breed, generally in the area where they were born. It is not known exactly how adult turtles are able to navigate to their natal (birth) beaches, however, researchers think they may use a number of clues including ocean currents, the earth's magnetic field, and water chemistry.

 
 

Did You Know?

  • Leatherback sea turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on earth, traveling as many as 10,000 miles or more each year between foraging grounds in search of jellyfish.
  • Loggerheads born in Japan migrate almost 8,000 miles to the rich waters off Baja California, Mexico to feed and mature. Once they have reached sexual maturity, they migrate back to Japan to breed and nest. 
  • The leatherback has a lightly pink spot on the top of its head directly above their brain. It is thought that this allows light to reach the pineal gland which may be used for migration. The pineal gland is an endocrine gland found in vertebrates which affects wake/sleep patterns and functions to signal day length. This combined with a change in temperature can signal a change in day length and season which indicates migration time.

 

What is SEE Turtles?

We protect sea turtles through conservation travel and volunteer tourseducational programs, and Billion Baby Turtles. We're a project of the Oceanic Society, America's first non-profit dedicated to protecting the ocean. Contact us for more information on sea turtle migration.

Photo credits: Neil Ever Osborne