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
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