Adaptation - a specific structure, behavior or physiological mechanism that helps an organism survive and reproduce in a particular environment.

Adult (mature) - a fully developed and mature animal, physically capable of breeding, but not necessarily doing so until social and/or ecological conditions allow (

Albinism - mutation in the DNA which causes individuals to lack several pigment colors.

Algae – a class of simple non-seed bearing plants.

Ambient temperature - temperature of the air in a particular area.

Amniote - an animal that produces an embryo within a sac that contains amniotic fluid. Amniotes include turtles, lizards, snakes, tuataras, crocodilians, birds, and mammals.

Anal - pertaining to the anal region.

Anatomy - the science of the structure and functioning of organisms.

Anomaly - abnormalities or birth defects

Anterior - towards the front or head. Opposite: posterior.

Anthropogenic - effects or processes that are derived from human activities, as opposed to natural effects or processes that occur in the environment without human influences (

Aquatic – spending a large majority of a lifetime in or on the water. Opposite: terrestrial.

Archelon A now extinct gigantic sea turtle species from the late Cretaceous Period (74 million years ago). Thought to have weighed about 2000 kg when alive and measure more than 4.5m long (

Arribada - a mass nesting of turtles on the same beach.


Bacteria – single-celled prokaryotic organisms.

Beach - the shore zone, usually sand, from the low water line up to a permanent line of vegetation or where the physical characteristics of the ground change to rock outcroppings or cliffs (

Beak 1) a horny projecting jaw. 2) small, beak like part of shell valve along or above the hinge, represents earliest part of shell and continues to form umbo. May be used as synonym for umbo (Stachowitsch, 1992).

Bekko – (Japanese) a shell of the hawksbill.

Benthic Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Large juvenile sea turtles of different species usually frequent benthic zones (

Benthos – organisms that live on or in the bottom sediments of a water body.

Biodiversity – a biological variety of organisms, their genetic information and the biological communties in a particular area or region.


Bioterrain Map A map of the physical/geographical characteristics of a region combined with data that is relevant to wildlife habitat, including soil moisture conditions and vegetation.

Biotic - living.

Black turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizzii) - green turtles that occur in the Eastern Pacific that have morphological differences from other green turtles (in the Atlantic, Western Pacific, Indian Ocean). Specifically, they tend to have darker carapaces and smaller body size than other green turtles. There is some debate as to whether they are a separate species from green turtles, although at the current time, data from DNA and morphological studies show that they are not a separate species  (

Blue-Listed Species - any indigenous species or subspecies (taxa) considered to be vulnerable in their locale. Vulnerable taxa are of special concern because of characteristics that make them particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events. Blue-listed taxa are at risk, but are not Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened (

Body temperature - the interior rather than exterior surface temperature of the body (usually measured per cloaca).

Bridge - the part of the turtle shell between the fore and hind limbs connecting the carapace and plastron.

Bridge bones - ventral parts of the shell that connect the peripheral bones of the carapace with the plastral bones.

Brooding - the incubation of eggs either inside or outside the body. Eggs may be brooded to a variety of developmental stages. Males or females may be responsible for brooding (Ruppert & Barnes, 1994).

Brumation - a state similar to hibernation in which a reptile dramatically reduces its food intake although it may still drink. Both hibernation and brumation are a response to cold weather but in brumation the animal's response does not exhibit the extreme torpor of a hibernating animal (

Bycatch - organisms taken in a fishery that are not the species intended for harvest. After a catch is hauled aboard, the non-commercial marine lifeЦУbycatchФЦ is culled out and thrown back. Bycatch can be fish with no commercial value, juveniles of marketable species, sea turtles and birds, marine mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales, and many other forms of ocean life (


Captive bred - animals which are born or hatched in captivity from parents who mated while in captivity. Opposite: captive hatched.

Captive hatched - animals which are born or hatched in captivity from parents who mated in the wild.

Carapace – the upper half of a turtle shell covered by scutes or leatherly skin. The carapace consists of nuchal scute, neural or vertebral or central scute, marginal scute and pygal or supracaudal scute.

Carnivore - an organism that primarily eats other animals.

Caudal - referring to the tail.

Chelonian - a member of the order of reptiles called Chelonia (also sometimes known as Testudines), which include turtles, tortoises and terrapins.

CITES - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.


Cleaning Station - a place where sea turtles go to clean their shells. Small fish eat the things that live or grow on the shell.


Cloaca (ovipositor, vent) – a posterior opening of the digestive, urinary and reproductive tracts on the underside of the tail.

Clutch (nest) a group of eggs laid in the same place at the same or nearly the same time.

Clutch density - the number of eggs in a single clutch.

Coastal - adjacent to ocean shores.

Coastal zone - the space in which terrestrial environments influence marine (or lacustrine) environments and vice versa. The coastal zone may change in time (Carter, 1988).

Cold Blooded (exothermic) - body temperature and metabolism is controlled by the external temperature.

Cold Stunning - the state that turtles enter when they are suddenly exposed to very cold water (< 10 °C). They become lethargic and begin to float on the surface of the water. In this state, they are susceptible to predators, accidental boat strikes, and even death if water temperatures continue to drop (

Competition - an interaction that occurs between individuals when both attempt to use the same limited resource (space, food, mates, etc.).

Competitors – individuals or species that require the same limited resource to survive.

Conservation (preservation) - the regulation of human use of the global ecosystem to sustain its diversity of content indefinitely" (Nature Conservancy Council, 1984).

Conserve - to manage human use of resources within an ecosystem in an attempt to restore, enhance, protect, and sustain the quality and quantity of a desired mix of species and ecosystem conditions for present and future generations. 

Continental Shelf - Area of sea floor adjacent to a continent, sloping gently to a depth of about 655 feet (200 m); beyond the shelf edge, the sea floor drops steeply (via the continental slope) to the ocean bottom.

Copulate - to mate or breed.

Copulation - The act of sexual coupling by male and female (Morris 1992).

Costal - the series of plates located at the side and middle of a chelonians shell between the vertebrals and marginals.

Crepuscular - Active primarily during dawn and dusk hours of the day

Critical habitat - in the Endangered Species Act, the habitat that is determined essential for a listed species' survival or population recovery.


Critically endangered - a taxon facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future (IUCN Red List categories).


Current - horizontal movement of water in response to meteorological, oceanographical and topographical factors.


Depleted Status: Species whose numbers are below its optimal sustainable population level.

Diurnal - active primarily during the daylight.

Dorsal - referring to the upper surface of the back.

Double clutching - producing two or more clutches of eggs in less than one year.


Ecology -  the study of the interaction of organisms and their physical and biological environment.

Ecosystem - a biotic community and its surroundings, part inorganic (abiotic) and part organic (biotic), the latter including producers, consumers, and decomposers.

Ecotourism – environmentally responsible tourism that teaches people to appreciate and care for the natural environment and wildlife. Also called sustainable tourism.

Ectotherm (cold-blooded, poikilotherm) –an animal whose body temperature varies with the temperature of its surroundings. All sea turtles are ectotherms. Opposite: poikilotherm.

Eggbound - a life threatening condition that prevents a female reptile from laying her eggs. It is usually caused by one or more (usually infertile) eggs adhering to the lining of the oviduct.

Egg chamber - the chamber constructed by a nesting turtle in the sand and into which the eggs will be deposited for incubation (

Egg-tooth - a temporary protuberance on the beak that enables hatchlings to break through the egg shell.

Emergence success - the relative number of eggs in a clutch that produce live hatchlings that leave the nest chamber (

Endangered - a taxon when it is not Critically endangered but is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future (IUCN Red List categories).


Endangered Species - an animal that is considered in danger of extinction and appears on Appendix I of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Endangered Species Act - regulation that protects species of animal or plant that has been identified as in danger of becoming extinct because of harmful human activity or environmental factors (Morris 1992).

Endangered Status - species in danger of extinction in all or significant portion of its range, as defined by the Endangered Species Act.

Endemic species - a species native to and restricted a particular region or geographical location.

Environment - the complex of biotic climatic, edaphic and other conditions which comprise the immediate habitat of an organism; the physical, chemical and biological surroundings of an organism at any given time (Lincoln et al., 1998).

Environmental sex determination - the phenomenon when the sex of the hatchlings is determined by the environment.

Environs – surroundings, environment.

Epibiont - an organism which attaches itself to another organism without either benefit or harm to the host. Epibionts are often to meet on the turtle shells and skin.

Epifauna - animals living on the body of a turtle.

Epipelagic - occupying the uppermost 200m of the ocean where light can penetrate and photosynthesis can occur. Smaller juvenile turtles are thought to inhabit this area of the ocean (

Epiphytic (epiphyte) - referring to an organism that lives on the surface of another oranism and obtains its nutrients from the surrounding environment. Sea turtles can have epiphytes such as remoras (

Erosion - the gradual wearing away of land forms or soil due to the action of ice, water or wind.

Evolution:  the process of gradual changes in the overall genetic composition of a population of organisms over long periods of time.

Exothermic (Cold-blooded) – an animal which body temperature and metabolism is controlled by the external temperature.

Extinction - the disappearance of a type or groups of organism from the Earth.

Extinct - a taxon is Extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died (IUCN Red List categories).

Extirpation- the elimination or disappearance of a species or subspecies from a particular area, but not from its entire range


Fauna - all of the animal life found in a particular region.

Fibropapilloma - a disease found in sea turtles that causes the growth of large bulbous tumors; usually fatal.

Flatback turtle (Australian flatback) - essentially confined to the waters of Australia, the flatback turtle nests mainly on undeveloped and remote nesting beaches on the north coast of Australia. The flatback has a rather squat profile, hence its name (

Flipper - the limbs of seaturtles are referred to as flippers, fore and rear flippers (

Foodchain - the transfer of energy through an ecosystem starting with primary producers (plants) through a series of organisms (consumers) that eat and are in turn eaten to decomposers.

Food web - the complete set of all food chains between species in an ecosystem.

Feeding grounds (foraging area) - an area that animals go to feed.

Fossil – the preserved remains of ancient organisms.


Gestation (gestation period) - the period from fertilization of egg until egg-laying. 

Global warming - increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.


Gravid - bearing eggs.

Green Turtle Variations (Chelonia mydas) One of the seven species of marine turtle alive today. The latin name for the green turtle is Chelonia mydas. It is a herbivore and feeds on seagrasses and algae. Consequently it is the species of marine turtle favoured for its meat and is sometimes known as the edible turtle (


Habitat - the natural environment in which an animal lives.

Hatchery (corral) - a protected area where eggs or nests are relocated for incubation. Hatcheries can be either open-air (outside) or indoors (covered) (

Hatching Success (emergence success) - the relative percentage of eggs in a nest that produce live hatchlings (

Hatchling (baby turtle, neonate) - a turtle recently hatched from an egg up to few weeks.

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) - one of the seven species of marine turtle alive today. The latin name for the hawksbill turtle is Eretmochelys imbricata. It is typically found on and around coral reefs and has a hawk like beak for feeding on sponges and corals. it is classified as critically endangered (

Herbivore – an animal that eats mainly plants. Green sea turtles are primarily herbivores (

Herpetofauna (herp, herptile) - referring to both reptiles or amphibians.

Herpetologist – a scientsist studying reptiles and amphibians.

Herpetology - branch of zoology which studies various aspects of reptiles and amphibians.

Hibernate -  to pass the winter in a condition of hibernation (Morris, 1992).

Hibernation -  a dormant, sleeplike state, with a lower body temperature and slower heart and breathing rate, that is characteristic of various animals during the winter months in cold climates, such as bears, bats, certain birds, snakes, frogs, and turtles; this state tends to protect against cold weather and to reduce the need for food (Morris 1992).


Immigration - movement of individuals into a population or an area.

Imprint - impress on or fix in the mind memory of a thing or person. In the case of sea turtles, hatchling turtles are thought to imprint on the beach or coastal area from where they hatched, enabling them to return to this site to breed (

Incidental capture (indirect capture, accidental capture, incidental take) - the unintended capture of non-target species during fishing activity. For example, sometimes sea turtles are incidentally captured during fishing activities for shrimp or swordfish (

Indigenous - naturally occurring in more than one place.

Incubation – a developmental phase of an egg prior to hatching 

Internesting (Internesting interval, Internesting period) - the period of time between a successful nest and the next nesting attempt (sea turtles of all species lay several clutches of eggs during a nesting season). Typically this is 10-18 days in most species (

IUCN (the World Conservation Union) - one of the world's oldest international conservation organizations.

IUCN categories I-IV – In the IUCN classification system for protected areas, categories I-IV refer to higher levels of protection.

the IUCN Red List Categories are: Extinct, Extinct in the wild, Critically endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Lower risk, Data deficient, and Not evaluated. Click on each categorie for detailed information.

IUCN Red List – The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides information on the conservation status of species that have been globally evaluated for their probability of extinction using quantitative criteria. The Red List is a compilation of species categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable according to the IUCN Categories of Threat.


Jellyfish:  a saltwater invertebrate which drifts with the currents to get from place to place. 

Juvenile (immature, subadult) a turtle which has commenced feeding (and is no longer dependent on its yolk sac), but has not yet reached maturity (


Keel - a middorsal ridge of the carapace.

Kemp's Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) - the smallest and most endangered of the sea turtle species, for years it was known as the bastard turtle on account of the fact that its nesting grounds were unknown, which led to the belief that it was a hybrid between 2 other sea turtle species. Finally its nesting beaches were discovered at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, the only known nesting site for this species. The Kemps Ridley turtle nests in arribadas, coming ashore en masse to nest during the day (


Lateral - pertaining to the sides.

Lateral bridge - in turtles, hard-shelled plates that connect the plastron to the carapace and found on both sides.

Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) - the largest of the seven species of marine turtle. The leatherback turtle is the only marine turtle that is not a hard-shell and takes its name from its leathery shell. It roams the oceans feeding on jellyfish and other gelatinous organisms. It is classified by the IUCN as critically endangered (

Limited resource - those resources that are in limited supply.

Locally Common - uncommon or absent over most of range, but relatively common in one or more specific localities.

Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) - the loggerhead turtle is one of the seven species of marine turtle. Its latin name is Caretta caretta. It has a large logger head (hence the name) to support its large jaw muscles used for crushing molluscs and crustacea (

Lost years - the years between a turtle's hatching and its return to coastal waters as a juvenile. This period is estimated to be from thre to seven years.


Marine - spending time mostly in salt water (i.e. ocean) surroundings.

Marine protected area (MPA, Marine Park) - any ocean zone or area that is given special protection status for the management of some or all natural or cultural resources that occur within the zone (

Mediterranean – an part of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and Africa (Charton & Tietjen, 1989).

Medusa (jellyfish) - a free-swimming stage in the life cycle of cnidarians.

Middorsal - middle of the back.

Migration - regular movement of animals from one location to another one, usually associated with seasonal changes or breeding and feeding cycles.

Mortality - refers to death rate.

Mutation - an abnormal gene that under certain circumstances can change the appearance of an animal


Natal beach - the beach where the turtle was originally hatched, or born.

Natal homing - the behavior by which an animal returns to the place where it was born. For sea turtles, adult females return to lay eggs in the general region where they were born (

Natality - refers to births.

Native - naturally occurring in a particular region.

Neonate – newborn.

Neophyte - referringf to a nesting female turtle that is in the first reproductive season. Usually, any female that has not been previously recorded nesting at a certain site is defined as a neophyte. However, it is possible that a "new" turtle could be one that lost its tags or switched nesting beaches. In general, it is difficult to distiguish true neophytes without laparascopy (

Neritic - Pertaining to the near-shore, shallow-water zone of a sea over the continental shelf.

Nest - a collection of eggs that are all laid in the same period of time.  

Nesting - the process by which a turtle constructs a nest in the ground and deposits eggs.

Nesting population (rookery) - a group of adult female turtles that tend to nest in a specific and defined region or beach (

Niche - the particular way in which an organism obtains its food and reacts; the role a species plays in the community.

Nocturnal - active primarily at night.


Oceanic – an area beyond the edge of the continental shelf, usually where the water is deeper than 200m.

Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) - Although related to the Kemps Ridley, the Olive Ridley is the most numerous sea turtle in the world, nesting on beaches in West Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, and India. It also nests en masse in arribadas that can take place during the day or night (

Omnivore - an animal that eats both plants and animals. Hawksbill turtles are omnivores, eating algae, sponge and corals (

Oviparous – egg-laying.

Oviposition - the process of laying eggs.

Ovum (plural – ova) - an egg.


Papillae - the esophagus of sea turtles is lined with keratinized projections that point inward towards the stomach. The papillae end where the esophagus joins the stomach and are presumed to trap food while excess water is expelled prior to swallowing (

Parasite - an organism which obtains food and shelter from another organism. Sea turtles can have various parasites, including leeches and protozoa (

Pathogen – a disease-producing agent, usually applied to a living organism. Generally, any virus, bacterium, or fungus that causes disease.

Pelagic - organisms that occupy the water column, but not the sea floor, in either the neritic zone or oceanic zone. Leatherbacks are considered to be the most pelagic species of sea turtle (

Phytoplankton – free-floating or flagellated microscopic aquatic microorganisms (authotrophical plankton).

Pivotal temperature (threshold temperature) - the constant incubation temperature of eggs that will produce equal numbers of males and females. The pivotal temperature is a characteristic of TSD (Temperature-dependent Sex Determination) (

Plankton – Microscopic organisms that drift freely with water currents

Plastral - relating to the plastron.


Plastron - the underside of the turtle shell.

Poaching – Illegal harvest of wildlife.

Poikilotherm (cold-blooded) - an animal whose body temperature varies with the temperature of the ambient environment.

Pollution – contamination of air, water, or soil by toxic organic or inorganic substances.

Population - a group of interbreeding animals of the same species that occupies a particular area, isolated from other such groups.

Population density - the number of individuals of the same species in a given area.

Posterior - towards the tail/rear of an animal (opposite to anterior).

Predation - when one species feeds on another species.

Predator - any animal that preys on other organisms, which are usually situated in a lower trophic level, as a source of food. This can include herbivores, carnivores and omnivores (

Preservation - the act of reserving, protecting or safeguarding a portion of the natural environment, a species or a population from unnatural disturbance. It does not imply preserving an area in its present state, for natural events and natural ecological processes are expected to continue (

Prey – an animal that is killed and eaten by another.

Protect - to manage the conservation of ecosystems, habitat, or species.




Red Data Book species - species listed in catalogues published by the IUCN or by national agencies, listing species which are rare, endangered or vulnerable to extinction globally or nationally.


Red List - a list of organisms that are classified by the level of threat to ongoing survival. Currently, the majority of listings are done at the global species level. It is a product of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) (

Red-listed species - species identified as 'Extinct', 'Extinct in the wild', 'Critically endangered', 'Endangered', 'Vulnerable', 'Lower risk', 'Data deficient' or 'Not evaluated' according to criteria laid down in the IUCN Red List Categories (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1994).

Rehabilitate - to restore the functions and processes of a degraded ecosystem or habitat to an effective state rather than an original state.

Relict species - a species believed to have been previously more widely distributed but now restricted to a limited number of locations.

Relocation (translocation) - the removal of an organism from one site and placing it in another. Sea turtle nests that are laid too close to the ocean or in a dangerous section of beach are often relocated to safer areas (either on the beach or into a hatchery) (

Remigrant - a nesting female turtle that has been recorded nesting at a particular nesting beach before and has returned, or remigrated, to the nesting beach in a different subsequent year to nest again (

Remigration - migrating to a site for a second time. e.g. in turtles females migrate to a nesting beach. If they return after 2 years this is called the remigration interval (

Reptilia (reptiles) - the taxonomic class of vertebrates that includes snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises and crocodilians.

Restore - to return ecosystems or habitats to their original structure and species composition.

Restricted range species – animals that are only found in a specific area or region.


Salinity - a measurement of salt dissolved in water; sea water salinity is about 3.5 percent.

Sand – suspended sediment or bed material with a particle-size of 0.06-2.0 mm in diameter.

Scute - a horny or keritanized plate that is part of the shell of a turtle. The number and particular grouping of carapace scutes can be used to distinguish the different species of sea turtle (

Sea turtle - a saltwater reptile which breathes air and spends most of its life at sea. 

Sex Ratio - a ratio of males to females in a population.

Sexual maturity - age at which animal is first capable of breeding.

Species – taxonomic unit, a group of animals which are genetically related and are able to interbreed to produce fertile young.

Spongivore - an animal that eats mainly sponges. Hawksbill sea turtles are spongivores, although they also sometimes eat algae and coral (

Sub-adult - an animal of not fully adult size/age but either sexually mature or very close to sexual maturity. 

Sustainable - able to be maintained over an indefinite period of time.


target species- those species which are intended to be hunted or fished.

Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) - the condition where the sex of the offspring is influenced by the prevailing temperatures during embryonic development. In sea turtles, warmer temperatures produce more or all females, cool temperatures produce more or all males, and the pivotal temperature is the constant incubation temperature that produces equal numbers of males and females. TSD also occurs in other reptiles (crocodilians, some freshwater and land turtles, some lizards), some types of fish, some types of invertebrates, etc (

Terrapin - largely fresh aquatic turtles.

Terrestrial - Spending time primarily on the land (opposite to aquatic).

Thermoregulate - to control or adjust temperature.

Threatened - a species that is not yet endangered, but is in danger of becoming endangered. A species that appears on Appendix II of the Endangered Species Act or on a State List of protected species as having a Threatened status.

Tomium (Beak, Tomia) - the cutting edge of the beak or mandible. In some sea turtles, the tomium of the lower jaw has a sharply serrated rim corresponding to strong ridges on the inner surface of the upper tomium. The serrated jaw or tomium allows for efficient grazing of sea grasses (

Tortoise - any terrestrial chelonian from the Testudinidae family

Toxin - a chemical substance that is dangerous when ingested.

Tracking - following the spatial movements of an animal. Typical tracking methods employ satellite, radio, sonic or passive (ie, flipper or PIT tags) telemetry (

Transplant (relocate, transfer, rebury) - to relocate something to a new site. In the case of marine turtles, clutches of eggs can be relocated or transplanted to a new location where they may have a greater chance of success, for example if the clutch is likley to be washed over by waves or the clutch is under threat from predation or poaching (

Trophic level- the position of a species in a food chain, indicating its level of energy transfer in the ecosystem.

Turtle - any marine (also terrestrial in the US) reptile of the order Chelonia


Vent - the opening at the base of the tail where excretes are expelled. 

Ventral - referring to the bottom or belly area of an animal (opposite of dorsal).

Vertebral - referring to the spinal region.  The central row of scutes along the top of the carapace.

Vertebrate -  an animal with a segmented spinal column or “backbone” containing a central spinal cord; fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Vestigial -- Greatly reduced and non-functional.

Vulnerable -- at risk because of low or declining numbers, occurrence at the fringe of its range or in restricted areas, or for some other reason, but is not threatened




Wild caught - animals which were caught in the wild and brought into captivity.




Yellow-Listed Species - any indigenous species or subspecies in B.C. that is not at risk, but may be vulnerable during times of seasonal concentration.


Zonation -  distribution of plants and animals into zones or specific areas, which differ from each other in species composition; caused by different environmental conditions in each zone.

Zoology - a branch of Biology concerned with the study of animals and aspects of animal life.

Zooplankton - drifting or floating microscopic animals found at various depths in lakes, rivers, and seas.