Hawksbill Sea Turtle Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Scientific Name:

Eretmochelys imbricata

Wild Status:

Critically Endangered


Tropical Ocean Waters


Wide Distribution


Coral Reef Caves and Ledges

Life Span:

Unknown. Average 50-60 years


up to 3ft, 180lbs

Cool Facts:

  • The hawksbill sea turtle's beak is specialized for eating sponges off of coral reefs. While  sea sponges make up 70-95% of their diet, they also feed on sea anemone, jellyfish, fish, crustaceans, coral, and more.
  • Hawksbill sea turtle feed on toxic and potent sea jellies sponges, and anemone but they are highly resistant to them.
  • The "tortoise shell" pattern is derived from the hawksbill sea turtle.
  • Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between nesting and foraging sites.
  • Clutches left on beaches include around 140 eggs that will hatch at night two months later.


Hawksbill sea turtles were named after their pronounced hooked beak. This sea turtle species can grow up to 3 feet in length, making them the third smallest sea turtle. Their top of it's shell, carapace, is amber  with dark streaks that radiate from the sides. Their carapace has a distinct scute pattern. There are five vertically centered scutes along the top, with four pairs of scutes laterally lining the carapace. The posterior scutes leave a serrated look to the carapace. Their limbs have fused fingers that form their flippers. They do not have retractable claws and have two claws on the front limbs.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Reptilia Order: Testudines Suborder: Cryptodira Superfamily: Chelonioidea Family: Cheloniidae Subfamily: Cheloniinae Genus: Eretmochelys Species: E. imbricata

Conservation & Helping:

The hawksbill sea turtle is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Their population has been estimate to have declined 80 percent over the past 100-135 years. They are vulnerable to threats because of their slow reproductive and growth rates. They are largely threatened by coastal development that has caused the loss of their nesting sites worldwide. Adults have been accidentally or deliberately killed, particularly in the use of fish nets. Throughout human history, sea turtles and their eggs have been hunted as a delicacy. While it is illegal now to hunt these sea turtles for decoration, their "tortoiseshell" pattern, has always been sought after.

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