Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Mating green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Malaysia

Mating green turtles off the coast of Sipadan Island, Malaysia (Photo: Nicolas J. Pilcher)

Status: Endangered (A2bd)

Basic Info: The green turtle has the most numerous and widely dispersed nesting sites of the seven species, and was once highly sought after for its body fat – a key ingredient in the popular delicacy, ‘green turtle soup.’ Although it has become illegal to trade them in many parts of the world, green turtles and their eggs continue to be consumed.

Distribution: Circumglobal; nesting areas throughout tropical regions are often on islands and coral atolls in addition to mainland beaches; Non-nesting range extends to temperate regions during immature stages

Size:
Adults: Length 80-120 cm; mass up to 300 kg
Hatchlings: Length 30-40 mm; mass 25-30 g

Diet:
For immature stages, soft-bodied invertebrates such as jellies and jelly-like organisms. For later immature stages and adults, mainly herbivorous, but also sessile invertebrates such as sea pens soft corals.

Reproduction:
* Reproduce every 2-4 years
* Lay 2-5 clutches of eggs per season
* Lay 80-120 eggs per clutch
* Large ping-pong ball size eggs weigh approximately 40-50 grams
* Incubation period approximately 60 days long
* Can take 20-40 years to reach sexual maturity

Facts:
* Green turtles were important for European explorers to the New World; they provided an essential source of food, and they helped crews navigate around islands at night by the increased volume of their aggregated breathing
* The former abundance of green turtles in the Caribbean is estimated to have been as high as 500 million individuals
* Eastern Pacific green turtles are termed ‘black turtles’ because of their darker coloration. They tend to be smaller and to lay fewer eggs than green turtles elsewhere.
* Green turtles nest in highly diverse types of habitats, including archipelagoes, isolated coral atolls, mainland beaches, in all tropical and sub-tropical oceans

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