All oceans, Mediterranean Sea

Evolution and systematics

The Cheloniidae are most closely related to the leather-back turtles of the family Dermochelyidae. Fossils are known from as early as the Cretaceous period. Because of uncertainty about the phylogenetic relationships among the five living genera, no subfamilies are currently recognized.

Physical characteristics

Large marine turtles with a low streamlined shell covered with scutes, paddle- or flipper-like forelimbs, a skull with a

A green seaturtle (Chelonia mydas) digs a body pit before laying eggs. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Adrienne T. Gibson. Reproduced by permission.)

solid bony roof, and a head that cannot be retracted within the shell. The plastron is somewhat reduced, lacks a hinge, and is connected to the carapace by ligaments.


All tropical and subtropical oceans. Some seaturtles range well into temperate seas, including the Mediterranean Sea.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) with attached remora in the Bahamas. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Herb Segars. Reproduced by permission.)

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