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The Green Sea Turtle

The Green Sea Turtle

June 13, 2018

The Green Sea Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas

Appearance & Physical Features

The Green Sea Turtle is recognized by many different names.

Its scientific name being Chelonia Mydas, but often called the green turtle, blасk turtle or Pасіfіс green turtle, аѕ a large sea turtle.

The common name comes from the green fat beneath its shell.

These turtles' shells (carapaces) are olive to blасk. It is typically light colored. Those in the direction of Japan seem to have a better chance of having a close to-black or combined black shell.

green sea turtle image

The green turtle’s flattened form is covered by a large, oval shell and it has a couple of paddle-shaped flippers.

These turtles are usually light colored although the ones closer to Japan seem to have a higher likelihood of having a near-black or mixed black shell.

The baby sea turtles exhibit sex differences. Even as adult turtles, males are distinguishable from the female.

Male Green Sea Turtles have a long tail that is visible coming out from under the shell as well as longer claws on the front.

Green sea turtle on land

Habitat And Diet

Green Sea Turtles move through different areas depending on what stage they are in.

Mature Turtles

Mature turtles spent most of their time in shallow water where there are beds of marine grass. They will gravitate to bays, shoals, and lagoons. The Green Sea Turtle must remain in the water and are entirely aquatic turtles even though they prefer to be near coastal waters. They also need very specific temperatures. They cannot tolerate extreme temperature shifts. They are interesting turtles who are something like the grazing animals of land in that they live among big meadows of marine grass. 

Juveniles

The adult turtles are quite different from juveniles. As juveniles, these turtles migrate across vast stretches of ocean and stay underwater a great deal. Adults are different. They seem to enjoy the privacy and safety of the areas where they live and they prefer bays where they can sunbathe on rocks and hide near the shoreline. They also like coral reefs just like their Hawksbill turtle cousins, and they will gravitate to salt marshes if available. These regions give them more protection from predators.

 

 

Migration

Green Sea Turtles are migratory when younger and a population of these turtles exists throughout tropical oceans all over the world. They also migrate through somewhat colder regions as long as they are within their temperature safety zones. One interesting thing about these turtles is that they migrate so far and wide that scientists have found DNA differences in the same species of turtle. Depending on where they migrate, they adapt. They can be found in the waters of the United States, South America Australia, Africa, Asia and more.

Diet

Hatchlings

Hatchling sea turtles have a reason to eat more flesh since they are born near areas where fish eggs, crabs, and small invertebrates are available. The youngest of these turtles eat as much of a meat diet as is needed to survive and grow, but they gradually become omnivorous and then will become herbivores if they can find enough of their preferred meadows.

Adult Turtles

Green Sea Turtles also adapt their diet as needed depending on where they live. They are different from the Hawksbill in that they are mostly eaters of plant-life. They graze on seagrasses in shallow lagoons and remain healthy on this diet. The serrated jaw helps them chew the thick grasses. 

green sea turtle nesting image

Breeding and Reproduction

The mother Green Sea Turtles are like most other sea turtles in that they are compelled to migrate to their home beaches to lay eggs.

The breeding method is also similar to other sea turtles. The males move with the females to their preferred area in the water where they mate, and then the female swims to shore.

The mother digs a sizable hole and lays large numbers of eggs.

She covers the hole and returns to the sea.

A single nest can contain a couple of hundred eggs if the female is healthy although the nests range in size from less than a hundred eggs up to a little over two hundred.

The eggs are round and very light colored. When the eggs hatch at around the 60-day mark, the hatchlings head to the water. Shorebirds will attempt to eat them, so they must hurry to make it out to the sea alive. 

Once The Eggs Hatch

Juvenile sea turtles spent their first 5 years (on average) roaming the open sea. They will eventually migrate to shallow waters to live with adults. These turtles are quite unique since scientists believed they are very, very slow to reach maturity. Like people, these turtles can have an average life span of eighty years. Human children reach sexual maturity in the teenage years, though, whereas scientists have discovered that Green Sea Turtles may take much longer.

Ecology

The Green Sea turtle plays an important role in the ecology of the sea.

The grasses that they are so fond of contribute to all of the life in the nearby waters. This grass needs regular pruning to stay healthy, and the Green Sea Turtle adults nip the ends of the grasses off as they graze.

These turtles also contribute in many other ways.

The remains of the eggs nourish life on the beaches and add calcium and other nutrients to beach soils. Green Sea Turtles also interact with reef fish that eat the barnacles and other debris on the sea turtle shells. The fish survive on this food while the turtles swim better and are healthier with clean shells.

sea turtle threats fishing net image

Threats

Man Made Threats

Like almost every other sea turtle, these Green Sea Turtles are primarily endangered by the humans who recreate, build and fish. All of these activities can result in the death of the turtles due to contamination at nesting sites, confusion from lights and activity, being trapped in fishing gear, single use plastics and other issues.

Natural Threats

When you add these major threats to the Green Sea Turtle lives, their natural threats become all the more problematic. They are especially vulnerable to parasites. The barnacles that attach themselves to the turtles are joined by leeches and different kinds of sea worms. They can attach themselves to the shells and to the flippers. These parasites can weaken the turtles and cause disease and organ damage. Because of the parasitic threats and the human threats and the long juvenile stage of the Green Sea Turtle, a very tiny percentage ever live to sexual maturity.

Study of Green Sea Turtles

These turtles are more difficult to study than most. They lead very reclusive lives.

They spent most of their time swimming in open waters during the younger stage and then they try to stay protected in their marine grasslands.

They do not do well in captivity, so scientists are still learning a great deal from just observing these turtles in their natural environments.

The Green Sea Turtles Future 

It is estimated that only 1% of Green Sea Turtles make it to sexual maturity today.

The rate of death from the hatchling state to the juvenile state is also very high.

Without more protections to keep these turtles out of danger brought on by human activity, the prognosis is not good for these beautiful creatures.

We can only hope that more awareness and all the efforts we make will bring more change.

Our Mission

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