Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation

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For more than a hundred million years, sea turtles have been swimming in the world's oceans. These magnificent, long-lived creatures spend their lives in the water, coming ashore to lay their eggs. Upon hatching, the baby turtles leave the nest and enter a dangerous world of storms and predators. The females will return to the same beach to lay their own eggs when they reach maturity a decade later. Today, there are seven species of sea turtle: the grass–eating green turtle; the sea sponge–eating hawksbill; the olive ridley; the Kemp's ridley, which is the smallest species; the loggerhead; the flatback of Australia; and the giant leatherback. Having escaped the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, these ancient reptiles today face new dangers that threaten their survival: pollution, hunting, and the destruction of their nesting grounds. Will this century be the last to witness their majesty? Will succeeding generations live in a world devoid of their graceful presence?

Marine biologist James R. Spotila has spent much of his life unraveling the mysteries of these graceful creatures and working to ensure their survival. In Sea Turtles, he offers a comprehensive and compelling account of their history and life cycle based on the most recent scientific data—and suggests what we can do now to save them. From the Kemp's ridley, which nests on a single beach on Mexico's Gulf Coast, to the nomadic leatherback, which can weigh up to a ton and is in the most imminent danger of extinction, Spotila offers a vivid description of their diets and mating habits, and the conservation efforts being made on their behalf. Illustrated with stunning color photographs by the world's leading nature photographers, Sea Turtles will inform and inspire readers of all ages everywhere.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews


The author is both a leading authority on sea turtles and a talented writer; his passion for the subject is on every page.

Spirit of Aloha

Sea Turtles is spellbinding, articulate, indispensible and, with its many full-color photos, taken by the world's leading underwater photographers, astonishing.

Compendium Newsletter

An evocative portrait of the seven species and their valiant fight for survival.

Wildlife Activist

This is a great book.

New Scientist

Each species gets a chapter with sumptuous photographs, and short personal profiles pay homage to those spearheading conservation efforts.

Philadelphia Inquirer

It is this mixture of scientific expertise and outright human awe that makes this book such a treasure... A trove of information, a collection of spectacular photos, and an ode to a creature that somehow, years after its birth, is able to navigate back to the precise beach where it was born to lay its own eggs.

Post Register

Open this new, beautifully produced book and you'll find yourself hopelessly caught up in the life of sea turtles.

Black Sheep Dances

A worldwide study into what is causing the decrease in sea turtles throughout the world. Going beyond just what is causing it, though, [Spotila] carefully explicates why the decline is so important to all living things.

American Scientist - Roger Harris

Such enthusiasm is infectious... The accessible text is beautifully illustrated with numerous color photographs. The lay readers will be captivated. The book's review of what scientists know about these charismatic but woefully endangered creatures is substantial enough to interest biologists and conservationists as well.

Charlotte Herald-Tribune - Larry Evans

Clearly written and well-illustrated book... provides a helpful primer for nonscientists.

Baltimore Sun - Mary Beth Regan

Bottom line: This book is worthy of centerpiece placement on any coffee table. But Sea Turtles' loftier goal make it more than just another pretty picture book.

Science - Fredric J. Janzen

Sea Turtles capitalizes on the depth of James Spotila's experience in field and political environments as well as his evident passion for conservation, [producing] an equally compelling, modern book. Readers of all stripes will be captivated by the outstanding photography and entertained by the stories... A wonderful entrée into the exciting world of sea turtles for the uninitiated and a delightful repast for everyone. His eloquent words are inspiring, and his hopeful message deserves to be heard.

Nature - Graeme C. Hays

This lavishly produced book is filled with numerous excellent photographs, as well as beautiful schematics of anatomy and distribution maps. But this is much more than a coffee-table book: it deserves space on the academic's bookshelf.

Aquatic Mammals - Tony Tucker

This is simply a great book: lucid, literate, and lavishly illustrated.

Marine Ecology - Michael Stachowitsch

This volume hits the sweet spot between a hard science manual and a mere coffee table book.


The author is both a leading authority on sea turtles and a talented writer; his passion for the subject is on every page.

Spirit of Aloha

Sea Turtles is spellbinding, articulate, indispensible and, with its many full-color photos, taken by the world's leading underwater photographers, astonishing.

Library Journal
Spotila (environmental science, Drexel Univ.) specializes in the physiological and population ecology of sea turtles and has made numerous research expeditions to observe them in their natural habitats. In this comprehensive guide, he treats in detail the seven species: green turtles, hawksbills, olive ridleys, Kemp's ridleys, loggerheads, flatbacks, and leatherbacks. Each chapter includes tables of data on where the species is found, population estimates of colonies, and, in some cases, a chronology of conservation efforts. An ancient reptile that survived the extinction of dinosaurs, the sea turtle is now threatened by development along the beaches that serve as nesting areas, as well as by deadly industrial fishing methods; Spotila, fittingly, offers vignettes of conservation projects that provide human interest. While Doug Perrine's Sea Turtles of the World is better suited to lay readers, Spotila's book is recommended for high school, university, and research-level libraries.-Judith B. Barnett, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801880070
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 231,062
  • Product dimensions: 9.32 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Spotila holds the Betz Chair of Environmental Science at Drexel University, where he is also director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. Dr. Spotila is a leading ecologist and physiologist who has written more than 100 articles published in leading scientific journals and helped create the field of biophysical ecology. One of the world's leading authorities on sea turtles, he is the founding president of the International Sea Turtle Society and president of the Leatherback Trust, based in Costa Rica.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : the seven swimmers 1
2 Life cycles : from sand to sea 10
3 Biology : under the shell 30
4 History : the ancient lineage 54
5 Conservation : an uncertain future 70
6 Green turtles : the grass eaters 94
7 Hawksbills : the sponge eaters 110
8 Olive Ridleys : a phenomenon of nature 126
9 Kemp's Ridleys : the rarest of all 144
10 Loggerheads : a crushing jaw 160
11 Flatbacks : Australia's turtle 180
12 Leatherbacks : the giant mariner 194
13 Conclusion : dreaming of Eden 217
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2015

    Highly Recommended

    The information is presented well. The photographs of the Sea Turtles are first rate. Good book for any educator teaching on Sea Turtles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    Ambitious, but successful.

    Jim Spotila¿s new sea turtle book has an ambitious subtitle. In the enormous and ever growing literature on marine turtles, how could any single volume be a ¿Complete¿ guide to all the fundamental aspects of their biology and conservation? Ambitious, but successful. If one had to find a single book to give to a new entrant in the field of sea turtles ¿ or, for that matter, to an advanced sea turtle scientist who was normally focused upon one aspect of sea turtle biology, one locality, or one research technique, this volume would be the one to choose. It succeeds well in giving a thorough, scientific, and up-to-date overview of the field. The text of ¿Sea Turtles¿ breaks down into thirteen chapters, each with a lively or evocative title (from ¿The Seven Swimmers¿ (or should it be eight?*) to ¿Under the Shell;¿ ¿The Giant Mariner¿ to ¿Dreaming of Eden.¿ The style is highly readable, with many personal anecdotes and comments, which offer both scientific insight into what turtles are all about, and also the sense of wonder and personal dedication that is the hallmark of virtually all the players in this growing field. The scope is truly global ¿ not just literally, for there is no geographic parochialism in this book, but metaphorically also. There are not only detailed accounts of each species, but also good discussions of turtle ¿:phenomena¿ ¿ sea turtle ancestry, turtle life cycles, population stresses, navigation, migrations, the arribada phenomenon, the pluses and minuses of head-starting, and so on. An attractive feature of the book is the inclusion of a number of short biographies, with good photo portraits, of selected individuals who have made major contributions to sea turtle biology. Just a dozen or so had the honor to make ¿Spotila¿s list¿ ¿ a challenging selection task in view of the enormous number of people now doing sea turtle work, but while many real-world winners did not make the list, there were certainly no losers included! One imagines that the Spotila laureates will include this prestigious recognition somewhere near the top of their proud achievements in the next version of their personal CVs. The photography is superb. Many talented photographers contributed their work, and there are stunning marine turtle images on almost all of the 227 pages of this book, many of them taken underwater and revealing our shelled friends in their true medium, where they look so much more graceful, animated, and at ease than in the usual pictures of an exhausted, sand-covered, weeping turtle struggling to complete its duties on the nesting beach. *Reviewer¿s comment.

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    Posted February 24, 2012

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    Posted November 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

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