March 13, 2013

Species Spotlight: the Green Turtle

Green turtle nesting on Sanibel at sunrise. (Photo by: A.Bryant)
Meet the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). As the only vegetarian sea turtle (in adulthood), they eat mostly sea grasses and algae. While not green in color, they are named for the green color of their fat. Green turtles are the largest of the hard-shelled turtles, often reaching over three feet in length and 300-350 pounds. They have an oval-shaped shell and a head that is small in proportion to their body. Hatchlings are typically dark grayish-black with a white underside and white edges to their carapace (top shell) and flippers.

Green turtle hatchling.
Green turtles are found worldwide. The estuaries in Southwest Florida provide nursery habitat for juveniles and our beaches provide nesting habitat. While loggerhead turtle nests make up the bulk of sea turtle nesting in the area, there are several green nests laid each year. Green turtles usually begin nesting in June and continue into September. Like all sea turtles, the green is protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. It is currently listed as endangered across its range.

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