Eretmochelys imbricata

Eretmochelys imbricata (LINNAEUS) 1766

Common Names

Hawksbill Turtle (English), سلحفاة بحرية صقريه (Arabic)

Languages: English



A moderately sized marine turtle; largest Egyptian specimen has a carapace length of 835 mm. Carapace depressed, elongate, smooth; scutes imbricate in younger animals, increasingly less so in older specimens; posterior edge strongly serrate; 4 cosatal scutes; first marginal scute in contact with first vertebral scute. Head rather small, narrow, with two pairs of prefrontals. Snout is beak-like, elongate. There area 2 claws on each limb. Males smaller, with longer tails and larger claws. Color of carapace yellowish brown, with dark brown and black radiating streaks; dorsal sides of limbs and head brown, scales edged yellowish. All ventral sides yellowish white.


Conservation Status

Critically Endangered

Status in Egypt

 Fairly common, but declining. The increase in tourist activities and artisanal fishing in the Red Sea is leading to growing disturbance to the nesting sites of these animals on offshore islands. Development on the mainland is reducing avail­able nesting sites. In the past stuffed animals were commonly offered to tourists, but this has subsided to a large extent.



Carnivorous, feeding largely on sessile marine invertebrates, such as sponges and soft corals.

Ecology and Distribution

Global Distribution

A pan-tropical species, recorded erratically in the Mediterranean, but not known to breed there.

Distribution in Egypt

The Red Sea, where it is the commonest marine turtle; not recorded yet from the Egyptian Mediterranean, although Werner (1988) lists the species from Israeli Mediterranean waters. It has been recorded throughout the Red Sea and in both the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez. Breeding has been recorded throughout the Hurghada Archipelago, Ras Mohamed, Wadi El Gemal Island, Qulan Islands, Ras Banas, and Zabargad Island.


Warm tropical and subtropical marine waters, usually near coral reefs and rocky outcrops in shallow waters.


  • Testudo imbricata Linnaeus, 1766 (synonym)
  • Eretmochelys imbricata Fitzinger, 1843; Flower, 1933; Marx, 1968; Saleh, 1997 (synonym)


S., Baha El Din. (2006).  A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo..