The long-lived sea sponge has several reasons why it’s the oldest animal species alive today. Among these is the fact that it has few predators. This is due to a powerful toxin produced by bacteria that call the sponge home.
One of those predators happens to be the Hawksbill Sea Turtle; this most beautiful of sea turtles is heavily dependent on the sea sponge for its nutrition. However, just how this reptile is able to swallow and digest the difficult to ingest sea sponge has remained mystery.
Nevertheless, the hawksbill consumption of the sponge benefits not only itself, but the reef a whole.
The coral reef and many its inhabitants have come to depend on this sea turtle as it’s one of the very few animal that controls the sea sponges’ population and while doing so it benefits other coral reef creatures as well.
Unfortunately, humanity has become a serious threat to this majestic animal and by extension the coral reef as well. Let’s explore together how the Hauksbill Turtle has become an indispensable member of the coral and what we can do to protect it.
Not soTough to Swallow
All sea turtles share similarities; for example they are well adapted against the poison of their prey, such as jelly fish. The most beautiful of these – the Hawksbill Sea Turtle spends the most time in coral reefs. This is because it likes to be near its favorite prey: the sea sponge (National Geographic).
Just how it has been capable of digesting this tough to swallow prey item containing glass spicules has not yet been understood. This is largely due to the fact that this reptile offers us little clues, in terms of physical adaptations – maintaining it’s status as the most elusive of all sea turtles.
Sea sponges are a highly successful species and if it finds nothings to stop it, it can easily overwhelm any coral reef. The hawksbill turtle is essential for keeping their population in check. Without this sea reptile, the worlds’ coral reefs will be quickly eroded by the sea sponge; resulting in an unbalanced ecosystem. The consequences will be felt throughout the oceans and the world at large, since as you well know all ecosystems are interconnected.
Other members of the reef also benefit from this turtle’s love of sea sponges. The turtle’s bill’s special shape (thus the name hawksbill) allows it to efficiently break up the tough sea sponge. Other members of the reef, who otherwise could not tear up the sea sponge, devour the morsels that fall to the sea floor. It’s as if this gracious host is inviting its guests, since it prefers not to eat alone.
Great For Beach goers
Like all sea turtles, the hawksbill turtle makes jellyfish a significant part of their diet. When this reptile’s population continues to decline we can see a surge in the population of jellyfish around the world. This can be very bad for beach goers; turning a fun day at the beach into a very painful experience.
All that’s necessary is for someone to come into contact with their tentacles; event if the jellyfish happens to be dead on the beach, the stinging cells can still be harpooned into one’s skin and cause misery.
This sea turtle is our ally against this natural threat; the question is: are we returning the favor?
Helping the Hawksbill
The hawksbill turtle has been gracefully swimming the oceans for eons; they survived the most calamitous event in the history of the earth. Yet, it appears as if humanity can prove to be more disastrous for this magnificent and crucial member of the coral reef.
Like sea turtles in general, the hawksbill faces threats of different sorts; one thing is the same, however, the threat stems from human activity. For example, many people around the world continue to raid their nests for their eggs. As you can imagine this can be detrimental, especially for a species that’s currently facing multiple risks. This goes on despite their current international protected status.
They are also poached for their meat and shells. Ironically, their stunningly beautiful shells have become their main peril for these beautiful creatures. We must realize that beauty means more than what they eye can capture; in fact, a healthy coral reef is even more beautiful than anything we can use to decorate ourselves.
In addition, like all sea turtles, the hawksbill are susceptible to becoming entangles in fishing nets where they meet a terrible fate.
There is much we can do to save this gentle gliders of the seas. Education is often a mighty sword which can inform people of the risks we all face if this animal gone forever. When folks realize that the price for a decorative piece or a special plate is too high they will very likely reconsider their choices.
Those who currently make a living off poaching must be assisted in making ends meet to support themselves and their families. We humans aren’t anything if we aren’t versatile creatures. We are capable of solving this problem if we simply reassess our priorities.
The majestic hawksbill, sea turtle reminds us of the often serene nature of the seas. This indispensable member of the world’s coral reefs has a critical function that affects the reef and us as well.
Being one of the few animals that can eat sea sponges it helps to keep their population in check and thus prevent the reef from been thrown out of balance. When this marine reptile eats the sponge, it becomes a feast involving other reef creatures as well.
Next time you enjoy a day at the beach, thank the hawksbill and sea turtles in general for keeping the jelly fish population under control. As you are well aware, a slight brush with one can quickly turn the tide from a fun day to an excruciating painful ordeal.
Unfortunately, we humans have been pushing the hawksbill turtle to the edge of survival. From commercial net fishing to poaching for their shells this long time survivor is facing the greatest threat of it existence. What many of us haven’t realized is that what hurts this phenomenal creature will subsequently impact us as well.
No matter how much we cling to our egos, the truth remains; this planet and all life in it (we are life) is interconnected. We are here because many other creatures exist and have existed for eons before we came along. If something were to happen to one – like the hawksbill turtle – there will be dire consequences for all.
I see humanity coming out of its long slumber and realizing that we must do better. I simply hope that we wake up on time.
What do you think we can do to save this majestic reptile? What kind of personal changes can we make that will help this sea turtle? Do you love sea turtles as well? How important do you think they are?
Please leave your comment below,
Thanks for swinging by,
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