Green Sea Turtle: Chelonia mydas


Its name describes the color of its body fat, not its carapace (top shell), which is smooth and colored light to dark brown with dark mottling. Adults can grow to four feet long and weigh as much as 400 pounds.


Most sea turtle nesting in the continental U.S. occurs in Florida, where five species of turtles deposit eggs in 40,000 to 70,000 nests annually. The nesting is concentrated along the east coast from Volusia to Broward counties. One species, the green turtle, digs anywhere from 200 to 1,100 nests each year in Florida.


Sexually mature when they are 20 to 50 years old, female green sea turtles crawl ashore to lay 75-200 eggs in shallow nests high on the beach. For reasons that aren't understood, more eggs (1,000 or so) are laid every other year. Once the eggs are covered and concealed, females crawl back to the sea. Each turtle may nest as many as seven times during the season that extends from June to September in Florida.

After about two months incubating in the warm sand, hatchlings scramble to the water and swim out into the open ocean. There, they seek food and shelter in large areas of floating aquatic algae, called sargassum. After several years, the young turtles return to shallower waters along Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Adults feed almost exclusively on algae or seagrasses in shallow flats. Green turtles will often travel thousands of miles between feeding and breeding areas.

Like most species of sea turtles, the green turtles that nest in Florida today are a remnant of a much larger population that was hunted nearly to extinction. Florida's breeding population of green turtles is classified as endangered and continued declines are the result of illegal trade in sea turtle products, habitat loss, and harm from pollution, dredges, offshore oil and exploration activities, fishing gear, and boats.

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