Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are known for their magnificent shells and interesting food preferences. They have a bird-like beak that is used to pick out sponges from the crevices of coral reef. Their shell (carapace) is a dark golden brown with streaks of black, yellow, and orange throughout. The rear edge of the carapace is serrated, and the "plates" (scutes) overlap. Unfortunately, this beauty has taken the hawksbill to the brink of extinction. Hawksbill shell is used to make tortoise shell jewelry, barrettes, combs, and other items. Additionally, like the green turtle, their eggs are harvested for consumption. Harvesting turtle eggs and the trade and import of tortoise shell items is illegal in the United States, but other countries still allow the take of hawksbill turtles. For these reasons, worldwide hawksbill populations are endangered. As adults, these turtles only average about 45-70 kilograms (100-150 pounds) and grow to be about 60-90 centimeters (2-3 feet) long.
Hawksbill scutes are beautiful shades of golden brown in color. They overlap and create a serrated edge that is unique to this species.
Adult hawksbill swimming on a reef.
Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS
A hawksbill hatchling.