Green Sea Turtle

Chelonia mydas

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This large marine reptile was once common in the equatorial areas of all major oceans. Today it is one of the most high-profile endangered species on Earth and often used as an icon for ocean conservation efforts, especially in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

An adult turtle will measure up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in length and some can weigh a staggering 800 pounds (362 kg). The thick carapace protects the slow-moving turtle from threats, although the Tiger Shark can usually bite through the shell with little difficulty and is therefore considered the turtle’s main predator. The carapace can range in color from brown to olive green to black. The underside of the shell, known as the plastron, is usually pale yellow. The head is short with a blunted snout and the flippers are long and flat with large dark scales.

This species is mostly herbivorous, although juveniles may feed on jellies and invertebrates if available.

Range and Habitat

The green sea turtle can be found in tropical and subtropical waters in all major world oceans, with genetically distinct populations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Depending on their age and life stage, the turtle’s habitat can vary widely. During the first few years of life, the turtle will reside in deep, pelagic waters. It will spend most if its adult life in sheltered lagoons and near reefs where they feed on sea grasses, moving onto beaches to breed. During mating season, some turtles can migrate as far as 1,600 miles (2,475 km) to reach the same beach where they were born.

Conservation Status

The green sea turtle is endangered worldwide. Historically, the turtle was heavily harvested for its skin, meat and body oils. In some areas of Asia, the turtles were actually raised in farms for this purpose. Turtle products were used mostly in luxury items and these markets have diminished or vanished with increased awareness of the animal’s status. Despite abundant legal protections and aggressive conservation programs in the United States and other countries, the turtle still suffers from issues related to pollution, climate change, marine debris, habitat destruction and poaching.

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