Much like their cousins, the tortoises, sea turtles are well-known for their longevity. Their extremely long adolescence hints to an extremely long lifespan. There isn’t any way to reliably determine a sea turtle’s age. Assuming a reproductive life of 30 years, scientists have estimated that the turtles can feasibly live to be 80, but there is no way to know for sure. For all we know, there could be thousand-year-old turtles swimming around (but probably not).
Another reason why turtles’ longevity can not be determined is that the rarely, if ever, get a chance to die from old age. Through their lives, turtles have to contend with sharks and killer whales, natural disasters like hurricanes, getting poisoned from eating trash, getting caught in shrimp nets, hunters, collisions with boats, and Fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like virus that causes deadly tumors.
The really long maturation period may also be the cause for the demise of many sea turtle species. With 90% of hatchlings being killed by predators, 50% of nesting areas being destroyed by hurricanes, and the remaining nesting areas slowly disappearing due to beach development and pollution, there’s a very low chance of any baby turtles born today ever surviving the 50 years it takes to be old enough to hatch new eggs.
Read more turtle facts from Sea World.