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Green Sea Turtles!

May 20, 2011

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are the species you commonly see in Hawai’i. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act on July 28, 1978. The populations along Mexico’s Pacific coast and in Florida are listed as endangered, along with populations in the Mediterranean; everywhere else the remain threatened.

Photo Cred. Sean McKenna

Appearance: Range from blackish to gray, to green, to brown in color depending on locational breeding populations. Greens tend to have unique identifiable markings. Yellow-white underside (“plasteron”). On average they weigh around 250 lbs and can grow to between 3 and 5 feet long.

Locations: Greens are the most widespread of all sea turtles with crucial breeding grounds in the Caribbean, North America, Central America, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Mediterranean. Also Hawai’i and other Indo-Pacific island areas. Basically they’re everywhere. A cute little population of greens has been established in the San Diego Bay, attracted to the warm water from the Duke Energy power plant.

Reproduction: A significant factor behind their depleting numbers is that they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re between 20-50 years old. Thousands of sea turtles are killed by pollution, boat strikes, or other reasons before they’ve had a chance to mate and lay eggs. Even if females do reach sexual maturity, they only lay eggs every two to four years.

Food: Adults are primarily vegetarian, eating mostly seagrass and algae. Occasionally they’ll eat a jellyfish or two (See video). Baby greens are omnivorous and eat sponges, mollusks, and jellyfish. 

Threats: Poaching, drowning in fishing equipment, destruction of nesting beaches, and ocean pollution.

***Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, the green sea turtle was not named for the color of its shell, but because it has green fatty tissue under its shell.

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