They live throughout tropic and subtropical waters and migrate long distances. They are the only members of the genus Chelonia. Below, readers can learn more about green sea turtles, including their habitats, reproductive habits, and ways they are threatened.
As noted above, green turtles sport shells, or carapaces, of different colors, and it’s their cartilage and fat that takes on the green hue. Their shells are shades of brown, yellow, and even black. These colors can change over time. For example, when green sea turtles are young, they usually have primarily black carapaces. But, as time passes, these light and turn a spotted/mottled pattern of browns.
They are shaped like most sea turtles. They have a flatted body with a shell, a short neck, and a beaked head. Its beak is shorter than other sea turtles, and it’s unhooked. Green sea turtles are also unable to pull their necks and heads inside their shells.
Turtle’s underside, known as the plastron, is yellowish. Their limbs are usually also a similar color, lined with yellow. There may be a dark spot at the center of each appendage.
On average, adult sea turtles grow to five feet, or 1.5 meters long, and weigh in around 150-419 pounds or 68-190 kg. One specimen reaching 694 pounds was once recorded. The largest weighed 871 pounds, and its shell was 60 inches long.
Depending on their age, sea turtles have different diets. The youngest are carnivorous but become omnivorous as they age. Starting out, they eat fish eggs, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, and algae. Then, their body fat starts to turn green as they move into eating seagrass.
Green sea turtles have a range that extends from the tropical and subtropical seas around the world. The largest populations are in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These two populations of sea turtles are different from one another. They are genetically independent and have their own nesting and feeding areas.
The largest populations around the United States are along the Atlantic coast, from Texas up to Massachusetts. There are Pacific populations along the southern California coast. Additionally, large populations can be found around Hawaii and Florida. Throughout the world’s oceans, sea turtles are most populous along the coasts of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Caribbean Sea.
There are important green turtle feeding grounds around Florida, such as the Florida Keys and Cedar Key.
Green sea turtles generally make use of three different habitats. They utilize beaches to lay their eggs, spend most of their adult lives in the ocean shallows or in bays or lagoons. Seagrass meadows are a popular destination for sea turtles.
One of the best-known attributes of the green sea turtle is its migratory habits. They travel huge distances between their feeding and nesting sites. A distance of 2,600 kilometers or 1,600 miles was once recorded. Mature turtles usually come back to the same beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. Their ability to find the same location is known as natal homing. They do this, scientists believe, because they already know that this is a safe place for their young to be born.
The mating season changes depending on the sea turtle population. Most mate between June and September, but other groups can be found mating from March to June, depending on the ocean temperature.
When mating, female turtles control the process. They mate in the water, and the female moves onto a beach above the high tide line and lays her eggs in a hole 11-22 inches deep. She covers the eggs (which can range from 85 up to around 200) with sand again. She then returns to the ocean, leaving the young to hatch and make it into the water on their own.
The only creatures capable of feeding on sea turtles are larger sharks and human beings. Tiger sharks are a common predator around the Hawaiian islands. As one would expect, the younger, smaller turtles are generally at greater risk than the mature adults. These smaller turtles may also be at threat from crabs and shorebirds. They also suffer from parasites, like barnacles and leeches.
Historically, sea turtles have been used as a resource. Their skin has traditionally been used for making leather products, and meat is considered a delicacy in some countries. Human activities, including poaching and egg harvesting, have been devastating to sea turtles populations. Other threats like boat strikes, pollution, and climate change have also influenced population numbers.
More recently, sea turtles have become protected globally, with various countries taking different steps to keep populations alive. Today, all populations of sea turtles are considered threatened by the IUCN.
Facts About the Green Turtle
- Green sea turtles are also sometimes known as black turtles or Pacific green turtles.
- They are the only species in the genus Chelonia.
- Their named for the color of their fat, not the color of their shells.
- They lay 85 to 200 eggs at one time.
- The female turtle controls the mating process.
- Turtles return to lay their eggs on the same beach they were born on.
Why is the green turtle endangered?
The green sea turtle is endangered because of poaching, egg harvesting, bycatch, pollution, and other human-caused dangers.
How many green turtles are left?
It’s believed around 85,000 to 90,000 nesting females are left in the world’s oceans.
What eats green turtles?
Green turtles are threatened by large sharks, like the tiger shark. Killer whales, or orcas, may also prey on sea turtles.
Why are green turtles special?
They are the only strict herbivores among sea turtles. They also travel immense distances throughout their lives from their feeding grounds to the beaches where they lay their eggs. Green turtles even return to the same beaches they were born on to lay their eggs.