Though scientists have been intrigued by sea turtles since the earliest days of exploration, the modern sea turtle research and conservation movement began to take shape about half a century ago with the release of Archie Carr's landmark book, The Windward Road (1957). Archie Carr's writings inspired generations of students and conservationists to research these animals and to work for their protection.
Over this period, we have learned a great deal about sea turtles and made huge strides towards building the knowledge base necessary to form effective conservation strategies. Yet, the more we learn, the more we discover what we do not know; large gaps in our knowledge remain—gaps that, to be successful, we must work together to fill.
The seven sea turtle species that grace our oceans belong to a unique evolutionary lineage that dates back at least 110 million years. Sea turtles fall into two main subgroups: the unique family Dermochelyidae, which consists of a singe species, the leatherback, and the family Cheloniidae, which comprises six species of hard-shelled sea turtles.
Explore our interactive diagram and learn all about the life of a turtle.
Sea turtles are built to last. They have swum the seas since dinosaurs roamed the land, and come equipped with unique body amour to protect them from their natural enemies. However, sea turtles’ new enemies—fisheries bycatch, direct take, coastal development, pollution and pathogens, and climate change—are making their survival ever more difficult.
Sea turtles have been cultural icons since the early days of humankind. Newspaper, magazine, and online articles about sea turtle-related topics appear almost ever day. Yet despite this attention, the natural history of the sea turtle is riddled with unanswered questions.