Scientists refer to sea turtles as the only living remnants of the dinosaur age, but maybe not for long. Unless sincere efforts are undertaken, sea turtles might follow dinosaurs into extinction.
Sea turtles, popularly known in the Philippines as pawikan, belong to the sub-order Cryptodira, and to the families Dermochelyidae and Cheloniidae. There are more than 220 species of turtles in the world, but only seven are considered marine (saltwater). Five of these species are present in the Philippines. These are the Green (Chelonia mydas). Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea).
Turtles are the only reptiles with shells. Scientists claim that turtles have been here for more than 150 million years now, surviving the age of dinosaurs. Using their shells as protectors, they have adapted well to all types of weather, surviving the most rigid climatic changes.
A typical Philippine Sea Turtle weighs between 180 to 210 kilograms and, unlike land turtles, cannot retract its head and limbs under its streamlined shell. It has large upper eyelids that protect its eyes, but has no external ear opening. Awkward on land, it is more active and graceful in the water, traveling as fast as 32 kilometers per hour using its long paddle-like fore and hind flippers.
Sea turtles vary in color – olive-green, yellow, greenish-brown, or black. The most common species in the Philippines is the Green Sea Turtle, which is also found in all tropical and sub-tropical seas. Its most distinct feature is a more blunt and wider head than that of the Hawksbill Turtle. It grows up to 1.5 meters long and weighs up to 185 kilograms.