Think Tank

Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill Turtle is at great risk of extinction due to the actions of humans

Hawksbill Turtle from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill Turtle is an omnivore that eats sponges, jellyfish, algae and sea anemones.

A turtle is a reptile that lives in the sea, is covered with a shell and has limbs that are adapted into paddles.

Reptiles are animals that have a cold-blooded metabolism, are covered in scales and reproduce by laying eggs on land.

More about the Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill is a relatively small turtle. This Hawksbill is 38 cm long, but adults grow to 85-90 cm long.

Hawksbill Turtles have a worldwide distribution in tropical and sub-tropical oceans. They are often found feeding in shallow coastal lagoons and around coral reefs.

All turtles have a flattened body encased in a shell made up of an upper ‘carapace’ and a lower ‘plaston’. Their limbs are modified into flippers for swimming, and they have a very short tail. Turtles also have a bird like beak, without any teeth, and it is this beak that gives the Hawksbill Turtle its common name.

Turtles reproduce by laying eggs. Turtles’ eggs cannot hatch in water, so the females have to drag themselves up onto land where their eggs are buried on sandy beaches. When baby turtles hatch, they dig themselves out of the nest and scurry towards the sea, where can swim immediately.

The sex of a baby turtle is determined by how warm the nest is. This is known as ‘temperature-dependent sex determination’ or TSD and occurs in a range of reptiles.

The scientific name, or two-part or Latin binomial, for the Hawksbill Turtle is Eretmochelys imbricata. ‘Eretmochelys’ means ‘oar-turtle’ and ‘imbricata’ means overlapping, referring to the scales on the shell.

The Hawksbill Turtle is critically endangered. It is at risk of extinction because humans steal the eggs for food, and kill the adults for meat and the attractive shell. This specimen was seized by HM Customs and Excise at Birmingham Airport and donated to the Museum. It was probably purchased by someone when they were on holiday, but buying endangered species increases their risk of extinction.

What to know more?

To find out more about the Hawksbill Turtle, download the Resources to your right. 

This Hawksbill Turtle is part of the collections held in store by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in Birmingham. Use the ‘Birmingham City Council’ web link below to find out more about the Birmingham Collections.

Ichthyosaur fossil marine reptile from Warwick Museum

An Ichthyosaur is an extinct marine reptile that swam the seas during the reign of the dinosaurs. To find out more about Ichthyosaurs, click the image above.

Eclogite metamorphic rock from the Lapworth Museum of Geology

Ecolgite is a colourful metamorphic rock formed. Find out more about eclogite by clicking on the image above