“Sea turtles bite tourists and dive away.” Have you ever stumbled upon headlines like that and thought,” Do sea turtles bite?” Lucky you! I will explain this common question in the following article.
Sea turtles bite and leave a bruise for a lifetime. They can even snap off the finger. However, sea turtles do not have any teeth, and they do the snapping using the horny and sharp beak.
How is it even possible that these peace-loving turtles are attacking humans? Well, it is possible, and it happens all the time. Let’s see why sea turtles bite people and who is to blame!
Do Sea Turtles Bite?
The majestic sea turtles are shy and prefer a solitary life to social interaction. They do not enjoy messing with anyone intentionally. But wait. It does not mean these turtles will not get involved in fights if they have to.
Sea turtles can act aggressively and even bite the opponent. Let it be a fellow marine creature or a superior human. Marine turtles will do everything for their defense.
These turtles have sharp jaws and razor-like beaks which can penetrate the skin within seconds. The bulky body structure works as an advantage in those fights.
Turtle fights often get bloody and horrific. The same might happen if a turtle attacks a human. He will surely make it out alive but with bruises and bloody skin when luck is on his side. Otherwise, a broken bone is waiting in the pipeline.
But hey! Sea turtles do not bite unless they sense danger. You are safe around these creatures as long as you are not being a threat to them.
Can A Sea Turtle Bite Your Finger Off?
Sea turtles can bite off your finger or your toe. Their horny and sharp beaks are enough to chop off your finger with one attack. These marine creatures prefer peace, but while in aggression, they show no mercy.
Measuring the biting force of sea turtles is not an easy task. There are many restrictions on experimentation on these endangered species. According to the data from the available studies, an adult sea turtle generates more than 500 lbs of force while biting. It is more than enough to break off your finger bones.
Do you know which turtle species is notorious for bites? Yes, snapping turtles.
Both the alligator and the common snapping turtles are dangerous opponents. There are rumors that alligator snapping turtles can bite off human arms. Do you think that is a myth? Well, catch the truth here.
Do Sea Turtles Have Teeth?
Have you ever seen a sea turtle smiling with all its teeth out? No? Well, that might be because sea turtles do not have teeth.
Call me a psychic, but I know what you are thinking. How in the world do sea turtles bite if they have no teeth? Simple, with their horny beaks.
Sea turtles have razor-like beaks similar to the birds. These reptiles use this sharpness for hunting and self-protection when the situation comes. However, not all sea turtle species are blessed with such beaks.
Carnivorous sea turtles require sharp jaws to prey on fishes, intervertebral, and other living food. Hence, they have horny beaks.
On the other hand, the herbivorous sea turtles have flat and rounded beaks perfect for guzzling on plants. Find out which sea turtles have sharp jaws and which ones have flat beaks by comparing their daily diet.
Do you know that baby sea turtles are born with egg teeth? The sharp teeth are made of yolks and help the hatchlings crush the eggshell. Once the babies are out, the teeth are of no use and fall off within a month.
Do you still not believe me that sea turtles have no teeth? See their physical characteristics from this article by yourself.
Bonus fun fact: About 160 million years ago, turtles with teeth used to live on earth. With time, these turtles have evolved and learned to live without teeth.
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Are Sea Turtles Aggressive Or Friendly?
Sea turtles are not of social or docile nature. They prefer living in solitary. So, you can not expect them to be friendly around you. The sea turtles are neither aggressive unless there is a danger ahead.
I have experienced diving with sea turtles, and I swear, I remember every bit of the memory to this day. These turtles are so calm and patient you can not even imagine. It is the circumstances that provoke them to be aggressive.
The marine turtles spend most of their time in solitary, away from civilization. So, sudden human contact scares them a little. These shy turtles swim, maintaining a distance from the snorkelers.
The sea turtles will roam around you or even pass you from the closest distance while swimming without causing any trouble. But if you touch, ride, hurt, or harass these peaceful creatures, they get all aggressive.
Have you ever got bitten by your small pet turtle? It hurts a bit. Right? The bigger the turtle, the sharper the beak, the more painful the bitings are. Now, imagine what will happen to you if a 4 feet sea turtle attacks you because of your foolish act?
How Hard Do Sea Turtles Bite?
The estimated biting force of a sea turtle is more than 500 pounds. Scientists have suggested the number after experimenting with a loggerhead sea turtle. The biting pressure and force will increase depending on the size and health of the marine turtle.
Measuring the biting force is not as easy as it sounds. The marine turtles are out of our range and even if the institute gets a permit for the possession of the species, collecting enough data is another hassle.
Do Sea Turtles Like Humans?
Sea turtles are not supposed to like humans or befriend them. Marine turtles are not social, not even among themselves. These turtles only interact with each other when it is time for mating.
The marine turtles live a solitary life. They are biologically designed in such a way that they require no friends. If you are snorkeling and find a sea turtle swimming beside you, do not think it likes you. The creature is going on in its own flow.
If you think the sea turtle has a soft spot for you and approach the turtle, you can get bitten by the creature. The marine turtles are peace-loving, but they give no second thought to attack if they sense danger. And you, my friend, are nothing but a threat to these turtles.
Has A Sea Turtle Ever Attacked A Human?
Sea turtles are not an aggressive species. But if they sense a threat, they attack the opponent to save themselves. The media often covers news of sea turtles striking humans on the beach and in the water.
According to a news report of 2015, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle attacked a researcher and devoured him. The news might seem shocking and unbelievable, but the available information supports the claim.
In another report from 2019, two sea turtles approached the sunbathers and coldly attacked them. The victims did nothing to provoke them. Instead, the turtles were the first ones swimming to the victims.
There are many more incidents of sea turtles attacking tourists or snorkelers. You can not blame them as you are the one who is on their property.
But here is the thing. The marine turtles will not attack you unless you provoke them. Recently, sea turtle harassing incidents have skyrocketed. As a result, these creatures have taken humans as a potential threat and do these attacks to eliminate the danger.
Do Sea Turtles In Hawaii Bite?
Sea turtles do not bite until they sense something threatening. The Green sea turtles, the main attraction of Hawaii, often attack the swimmers or tourists if they harass the creatures.
Turtles try avoiding people, but the approach is not the same from our side. We get excited to spot sea turtles and dive in to touch them or pet them. However, marine turtles are wild species, and your amusement is just a red signal to the creatures.
In Hawaii, the green sea turtles are the main attraction point for tourists. In different spots, you can even snorkel with these turtles.
Tourists often get excited to swim with these turtles and swim close to them. Your approach or friendly interaction might be why the turtles snap at you.
A few tourists fall victim to sea turtle attacks in Hawaii every holiday season. People are not well aware of marine life and the state rules. Touching sea turtles is illegal and punishable in the USA. So, if you find harassing a marine turtle in Hawaii, something bad is waiting for you, in either way.
Do Sea Turtles Attack?
Sea turtles are not aggressive by nature, but any threat will make them unleash their attacking side. These turtles will snap off at any creature while in danger.
The marine turtles swim at their own pace in the deep ocean. They barely come to the shore not unless they need anything. Even on the beach, the sea turtles try to avoid people as much as possible.
Though the turtles mind their own business, the tourists simply can’t. They get near the turtles for snapping photos, touching the shell, or doing something adventurous.
Unfortunately, interacting with humans is not in the sea turtle’s dictionary, and they often feel stressed because of this. As a defense mechanism, the turtles might attack the snorkeler.
Sometimes, you do not even have to do anything offensive to harass the sea turtles. Your presence or movement can threaten them, and you might get a painful sting.
I heard two separate incidents of sea turtle attacks recently. In Turkey, 10 people were attacked by loggerhead sea turtles, and according to the victims, they did nothing to deserve the bite. Experts interfered and suggested the continuous waves might have confused the sea turtles. They had taken the skin color as jellyfishes and came for hunting.
Another incident occurred in Crete, Greece, where a snorkeling woman got bitten by a loggerhead sea turtle. She was swimming, and suddenly there was a bite on her legs. Incidents like these are common in Crete.
See, marine turtles are not comfortable around humans. People on the beaches often try to feed, touch or ride the sea turtles. These incidents might have made the turtles vulnerable and threatened. As a result, they attack humans as a way to defend themselves.
Tips For Avoiding Sea Turtle Bite
Sea turtles will do you no harm if you mind your own business. The moment you approach these creatures, they mark you as a threat. The chances are, you will be the next victim of their bites.
But do not worry. Here are the precautions you should take while on the beach and diving in water with sea turtles,
- Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from the sea turtles in both land and water.
- Instead of approaching the marine turtles, you can use binoculars to observe them.
- Never feed sea turtles as the ocean is enough to balance their food requirements.
- Touching the sea turtles makes them vulnerable both mentally and physically. Even touching marine turtles is an illegal and punishable act in many countries.
- If you are approached by a sea turtle while swimming, stay calm, do not panic, and let the turtle pass you. Never try to touch the creature.
- Never surprise the turtle. The sudden event might make these creatures angry, stressed, and aggressive.
Sea turtles can bite, and the sting is more painful than you can even imagine. These turtles can even snap off your finger with deadly bites. Hence, you should be careful while swimming or snorkeling with these turtles and avoid touching them at all costs.
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