Common Name: Green sea turtle - named from the green color of the fat under its shell. (In some areas, the Pacific green turtle has another name - the Black sea turtle.)
Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
Description: Green sea turtles can be easily distinguished from other sea turtles by their single pair of prefrontal scales which are in front of its eyes, while two pairs are found on other sea turtles. With a serrated jaw, its head is small and blunt. Its bony carapace has no ridge but has large, non-overlapping, rough scales which have only 4 lateral scales. It is nearly oval shaped and can be distinguished from Pacific green turtles by its more depressed (flattened) body. 1 claw can easily be seen on each flipper. The carapace of green sea turtles have different colors ranging from pale to very dark green and plain to very brilliant yellow, brown and green tones with radiating stripes. The color of the plastron varies from white, dirty white or yellowish in the Atlantic populations to dark grey-bluish-green in the Pacific populations. The underneath and the flipper margins of hatchlings is white, while the remainder is commonly dark-brown or even black.
For comparison, the Pacific green turtle (aka Black Sea Turtle) has a strongly elevated or vaulted body and looks less round than other green sea turtles from front. The biggest difference with Pacific greens is the color, they have a dark grey to black carapace and the hatchlings are a dark-brown or black which also have narrow white border and white underneath.
Size: Adult green sea turtles are 76-91 cm in carapace length, which is 3.5 to 4 feet. The green sea turtle is the largest of the Cheloniidae family. The biggest green sea turtle ever found was 152 cm in length which was 5 feet and 395 kg in weight, which is 871 pounds.
Weight: An adult green sea turtle weighs about 136-180 kg which is between 300 to 400 pounds.
Diet: The green sea turtle is interesting in that it alters its diet during its life. They are carnivores in the early stages of life and become herbivores in their adulthood. When a green sea turtle is less than 8 to 10 inches, worms, young crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasses and algae make up most of their diet. After their length reaches 8 to 10 inches, green sea turtles become herbivorous, feeding on sea grass and algae as their main source of food. With their jaws finely serrated, they can tear vegetation very efficiently.
Habitat: Coastlines, islands, bays, protected shores are their main habitat, especially the places with sea grass beds. It is rare to see a green sea turtle in the open ocean.
Nesting: Green sea turtles nest every 2, 3, or more years. Nesting females have a wide year-to-year fluctuations in numbers. They nest between 3 to 5 times each season. They lay 115 eggs on average in every nest. The time needed for the eggs to incubate is about 60 days.
Range: Found in all temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.
Status: U.S. - Listed as Endangered (in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future) under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act.
International – Green sea turtles have been listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which means they have a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
Threats to Survival: The commercial harvest for eggs and food is the greatest threat for them. Other green sea turtle parts are used for leather. An increasing source of mortality comes from incidental catch in commercial shrimp trawling.
Population Estimate: 88,520 nesting females.