Description: Green sea turtles have a carapace length of 88-125 cm (34.3-48.8
in) and weigh 113-204 kg (250-450 lb), making them the largest of the hard-shelled
sea turtles. Males can be distinguished by their smaller size and longer, thicker
tail. The carapace color ranges from light to dark olive brown and often has radiating
mottled dark markings or large dark brown blotches. Each flipper of these sea
turtles contains only one claw. In addition, there is a single pair of prefrontal
plates between the eyes. Four costal scutes line each side of the carapace. The
first costal scute does not touch the nuchal. Scutes do not overlap.
and Habitat: Greens can be found in shallow waters between 30° North and
30° South, although for the most part they nest in tropical waters. They sometimes
travel thousands of miles between feeding and nesting grounds. In the Western
Atlantic, the range of Green sea turtles extends from Massachusetts to Argentina.
To prevent cold stunning, they migrate south in the winter. Greens occupy habitats
such as marine grass flats and reefs with an abundance of seaweed and algae. Juveniles
tend to remain in pelagic environments until 25-60 cm (9.8-23.4 in) of length,
at which point they move closer to shore.
Reproduction and Development:
Nesting season for Greens is year-round in the tropics and lasts from June-September
in the southeastern United States. Nests are laid in open sand habitat, often
on the females natal beach. It usually takes a Green sea turtle 2-3 hours
to complete the nesting process, which involves body pitting, digging the egg
chamber, and covering. The average clutch size is 110 eggs, and females typically
nest 1-4 times per season, with an interval of 2 weeks between each nesting event.
Incubation lasts for an average of 60 days. Warmer temperatures during incubation
produce females, while cooler temperatures produce a greater number of males.
Nesting is an exhausting process for female sea turtles, and most will only nest
every 2-6 years.
Habits: Adult Greens are almost entirely herbivorous
(aside from the occasional jellyfish and marine invertebrate). Juveniles, on the
other hand, are primarily carnivorous. Seagrass, such as Thalassia testudinum,
is a staple in the diet of Greens in the Caribbean and other areas, while Pacific
populations eat large quantities of seaweed and algae. The name of these sea turtles
relates to the color of their internal fat bodies, not to this largely herbivorous
diet. Greens display the unique behavior of basking terrestrially, which is by
far the most common occurrence of male sea turtles of any species coming to land.
The predators of Green sea turtles are few, and consist of sharks and terrestrial
mammals, including humans. Hatchlings are defenseless and can be eaten by a number
Conservation: Listed federally as an endangered species
by the IUCN and CITES, Greens are threatened by habitat destruction and degradation
on multiple fronts. Coastal development is a big factor in the loss of habitat,
as is light pollution from streetlights and lights from nearby buildings. Water
pollution destroys seagrass beds that are integral to the diet of Green sea turtles.
Furthermore, Greens are considered to be the most palatable of all the sea turtles
and are often harvested for their succulent meat and eggs. The use of Turtle Exclusion
Devices (TEDs) is essential for the survival of this species.
Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. A Field Guide to Reptiles &
Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
Gulko, D., and K. Eckert. Sea Turtles: An Ecological Guide. Honolulu:
Jensen, J. B., C. D. Camp, W. Gibbons, and M. J. Elliott.
Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia, 2008.
Author: Lindsay Partymiller