Alaska State Reptile
Green Sea Turtle (common name)
Chelonia mydas (scientific name)
The green sea turtle is the biggest animal in the Cheloniidae family and the only species its the genus Chelonia. The animal’s common name comes from the green fat it stores under its shell. It has a large range worldwide that includes both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
ALSO KNOWN AS
The green sea turtle has a fairly flat body and a large shell that’s wide and round at the front but pointed at the back. Its shell has five plates in the middle and four pairs of plates on each side. Its shell color changes over time. A hatchling’s shell is black on top and very pale beneath. As the turtle ages, its shell turns brown or olive green. At maturity, it’s brown on top, sometimes with lighter spots or swirls, and yellow underneath. Both back and front flippers are large and flat, and a mature turtle has one claw on each front flipper. The green sea turtle’s skin is dark with brown mottling and yellow lines.
Over 80 years in the wild
Habitat varies with turtles’ age. Young turtles spend the first years of their lives in deep ocean waters. Mature sea turtles live in shallow ocean waters near land, with access to sea grass beds such as lagoons, inshore bays, and shoals. They need wide, sandy beaches for nesting places.
Range: Subtropical and tropical oceans around the world. Green sea turtles live throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In the Pacific, the green sea turtle’s range reaches north to Alaska and east to Chile. On the western side, its range is from Russia and Japan south to New Zealand and Tasmania.
Conservation Status: Endangered (EN). This turtle is protected in most countries around the world. It is illegal to catch, hurt, or kill a green sea turtle. Some countries also have specific laws protecting their nesting areas. In spite of this, green sea turtles are sometimes still hunted for meat and eggs, both considered delicacies. Turtles also get caught in fishing nets and drown. Beachfront development often diminishes sea turtles’ nesting habitat. Adult green sea turtles’ few predators include humans and large sharks. Young turtles are prey for crabs, birds, and even small mammals.
A green sea turtle commonly travels long distances, sometimes more than 1,400 nautical miles (2,600 km), between the beach where it hatched to its feeding grounds. It frequently returns to the same beach to mate and nest. Males mate every year, but females may wait two to four years between episodes. A female green sea turtle nests on a beach at night by digging in the sand above the high tide line and laying her eggs in the hole. She uses her rear flippers to dig. After laying between 100 and 200 eggs, the female buries them in the sand and goes back to the water.
When young turtles hatch 45 to 75 days later, they immediately go toward the water. Many don’t reach the water, though, because they’re an easy target for sea birds and crabs. Those that make it to the water head for deep waters, and little is known about their activities there. It’s believed that these sea turtles take 20 to 50 years to reach their full size. Unlike many sea turtles, green sea turtles that live in Pacific waters sometimes bask on beaches. Green turtles can stay underwater for up to five minutes after a three-second breath.
Sea grass, seaweed
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: Varies between populations
Average nest size: 20–50 eggs
Size at birth: 4 in (10 cm) long
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press