Since more than 250 thousands years ago primitive reptiles, called
, started a large evolutionary process. The solid carapace, where theycould give refuge to their soft body, has been shaped by the accumulation of bonebetween the skin, joining the ribs, vertebraes and bone scutes. In this way, the firsttortoises appeared in our planet. Thousand years after this, some tortoises’ speciesadopted totally terrestrial customs, while others left marshlands where they used tolive, and conquer the oceans. This process took them to differentiate more and morefrom the tortoises. Sea turtles are considered highly derived morphologically and havemany adaptations for life in the sea. Legs derived into paddle-shaped limbs, while thecarapace took a hydrodynamic shape and the amount of bone was reduced.Nevertheless, because they keep being reptiles, they are characterized by having dryskin, covered with scales, they breathe with lungs, and their body temperature isregulated by environmental heat sources (Meylan and Meylan, 2000).Seven species are the only living members of what has been a large anddiverse marine radiation of turtles, which includes:
). An eighth species, the
), is recognized as a separated specie by some biologists, stillmorphological and genetic data published shows that this specie could be asubspecies of
Chelonia mydas agassizii
) (Pritchard and Mortimer,2000).Sea turtles inhabit every oceans and seas of the world, from the Arctic to theSouth Atlantic.
are the most tropical species, because rarely move off theTropics. In the other hand,
are known to make forays into colder,sometimes polar, waters. With the exception of
turtles,sea turtles are cosmopolitan in distribution.
is restricted principally tothe Gulf of Mexico and Eastern coast of the United States, with some individualsoccasionally found along the shores of the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
is endemic to the Australian continental shelf (Pritchard and Mortimer, 2000).
Turtle’s life history can be organized into phases depending on theirdevelopment and growth. They are characterized by having a large life cycle with latesexual maturity. Each life cycle phase (egg, embryo, hatchling, juvenile, adult) hasparticular characteristics.After the ovule has been fecunded by the spermatozoid, the egg developes inthe female’s oviduct. The egg is almost spherical and weigths between 25 and 80grams. The eggs are deposited in nests built by the females in tropical beaches. Aseggs need to develope in terrestial environments, nests are always above sea tide.Depending on turtles’ species, average clutch sizes ranges from about 50 and 140eggs.