A List of Marine Reptiles: Ocean Animals Include Crocodiles, Iguanas, and Snakes

Learn about marine iguanas in the Galapagos, tropical venomous seas snakes, the deadly salt water crocodile, and endangered sea turtles.

Asked to imagine a reptile and most people will think of lizards sunning in the desert, snakes slithering through the jungle, or geckos skittering in the corners of a human home. However, many reptiles spend their days gliding through tropical waters and migrating throughout the world’s oceans. A list of marine reptiles includes crocodiles, iguanas, snakes, and turtles.

Sea Turtles Come in Many Sizes

Sea turtles are one of the oldest species still alive today with fossils dating back 150 million years – meaning sea turtles roamed the Earth along with dinosaurs. Today there are seven recognized species of sea turtle and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation describes each species in detail. These marine reptiles come in a variety of sizes with the olive ridley weighing less than 100 pounds and the leatherback reaching 1,300 pounds. Sea turtles can travel thousands of miles in a lifetime migrating from their feeding grounds to their nesting beaches. Unfortunately, all seven species of this marine reptile are now endangered due to human poaching, destruction of habitat, and pollution.

Marine Iguanas of the Galapagos

The marine iguana (Amblyrhyncus cristatus) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. As the National Geographic describes in its “Marine Iguana Profile” scientists believe that land dwelling iguanas from South America floated on logs millions of years ago to the Galapagos. These scary looking herbivores can grow up to five feet long and use their sharp teeth to scrape algae off of rocks. Cornell University describes in “Marine Iguanas” how these creatures can dive for an hour at a time although they usually remain submerged for 5 to 10 minutes. Unfortunately, human-introduced predators such as rats and dogs are threatening these fascinating creatures. The marine iguana is considered vulnerable to extinction.

Sea Snakes are a Highly Poisonous Marine Reptile

Sea snakes can be found throughout the tropical waters of the world from Africa to Southeast Asia to Panama. According to an August 2015 Science Daily article “Venomous Sea Snakes Play Heads or Tails with Predators” there are over 65 species in the ocean and all are highly poisonous. Sea snakes have one of the most toxic venoms known in all snake species. Active predators, the sea snake diet consists mostly of small fish found on coral reefs. Many species spend their entire lives at sea, although they tend to be found in shallow waters.

The Dangerous Saltwater Crocodile

Some say the saltwater crocodile is the animal most likely to eat a human, according to the National Geographic’s “Saltwater Crocodile Profile”. Living around Southeast Asia and the northern coastlines of Australia this marine reptile can reach 23 feet long and 2,200 pounds. It is the largest crocodilian in the world. Although they can swim far out to sea to feast on sharks, their prey mostly includes land-dwelling monkeys, boars, and wild buffalo. They are considered at a low risk for extinction however hunting and habitat loss has put pressure on their populations.

Protecting Marine Reptiles

Humans have put pressure on the populations of many marine reptile species. Hunting, habitat destruction, and pollution are pushing sea turtles and marine iguanas ever closer to extinction. Although the saltwater crocodile is considered safe at the moment the tide may turn if hunting and habitat loss continue. Although reptiles may not be as charismatic as pandas or tigers, they too deserve respect and have a right to exist in their homes.

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Anatomy of a Sea Kayak: Basic Components of Interest to Paddlers

Native kayaks like the one shown in the picture from Nunivak above were the forerunners of the modern sea kayaks we use today. While they share similar shapes and purposes, little else is similar in their construction, stability, or safety. Generally, sea kayaks are longer and more tapered at the ends compared to their river cousins. A touring sea kayak will be around sixteen feet (4.9 meters) long and have a beam of about 25 inches (63.5 centimeters). Most kayak safety experts recommend using a sea kayak that is at least thirteen feet (4 meters) long.

Construction – Native kayaks used a framework to support the skin used to form the hulls of their craft. Except for folding kayaks, modern sea kayaks use materials that require no internal framework to function. Building materials come in two classes, composites and plastics:

  • Composites – These are laminated material like fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar bonded together with polyester or epoxy resin. Composite kayaks are expensive and subject to abrasion on barnacle encrusted, rocky beaches. They are however much lighter in weight.
  • Plastics – Plastic kayaks are roto-molded, that is, formed in slowly spinning molds that shape them. Common plastic materials used in kayaks are linear polyethylene and cross-linked polyethylene. Cross-linked polyethylene is the tougher of the two choices and hold up well in rough beach conditions. Plastic kayaks will weigh more than ten pounds (4.5 kilograms) than a similarly shaped composite craft.

Positive Flotation – Modern sea kayaks are designed with watertight flotation compartments and unused voids in the hull are often filled with foam. Chambers installed forward and aft of the cockpit have watertight hatches and are used to store gear. A touring kayak can easily carry camping equipment and food for a week or more.

Kayak Cockpit – The paddler sits low in the kayak cockpit. Sea kayaks are designed so that the paddler is near the bottom of the hull, which keeps the center of gravity low and improves the stability of the craft. The cockpit has a combing or lip around it to facilitate use of a spray skirt/paddle jacket to keep out water. Many cockpits will have thigh braces that help stabilize the paddler within the kayak. Rudder pedals are located inside the cockpit. There is usually room in the cockpit for a water bottle, a small dry sack and emergency gear like a marine VHF radio.

Deck Fittings – Sea kayaks have a number of important features associated with their decks.

  • Lifting Toggles – These are handles usually formed of plastic that are attached to each end of the kayak with a short piece of cord.
  • Deck Bungies – There are bungies installed forward and aft of the cockpit that allow readily accessible gear to be carried on the deck. This can be a spare paddle, a bilge pump or a chart.
  • Compass – Many sea kayaks have a magnetic compass mounted into the combing forward of the cockpit. Learning to use a chart and compass is an important seamanship skill. They make excellent backups for a GPS receiver with a dead battery.
  • Watertight Hatch Covers – Watertight compartments will have hatch covers in place to prevent entry of water. Many hatch designs use a neoprene cover that fits under the hatch itself. Hatch covers are usually held in place with nylon straps and buckles.
  • Rudder Tripping Line – Kayaks equipped with a rudder will have a line running up near the cockpit that allows the paddler to raise and lower the rudder. It is a good practice to raise the rudder before beaching a kayak.
  • Life Line – Some sea kayaks will have a line running around the outside edge of the deck that provides a grab point for a person in the water reaching for the kayak.