Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids – Largest hard-shelled Sea Turtle

In this post we’ll learn some of the amazing green sea turtle facts for kids including its physical description, size, diet, habitat, lifespan, reproduction and much more. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is by far the world’s largest hard-shelled marine turtle and the second largest of all species of sea turtles. This turtle has short head and neck but thanks to its flippers that acts like paddles, it can easily cover long distances with great speed. What’s more, these sea turtles can swim faster than other marine turtles. They have the longest maturity age among all species of marine turtles. They are closely related to some other marine turtles such as Australian flatback and hawksbill. However, as compare to green turtles, hawksbills have relatively large head with curved beak. Even though the growth rate of these turtles is fairly slow, but they tend to live long. Some of the other sea turtles that belong to the family of green turtles are Hawksbill, Flatback, Kemp’s Ridley and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. This turtle is a single species in its genus, Chelonia and it is also called by many other names such as Pacific Green Turtle and Black Sea Turtle. According to marine scientists, green turtles are divided into two separate species i.e. Atlantic Green Turtle and Eastern Pacific Green Turtle. Now let’s learn all about green sea turtles and find out some of the interesting facts about these marine turtles!

Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids

What Do Green Sea Turtles Look Like?

  • Green turtle is a large and heavy marine turtle.
  • The head of this turtle is small and looks more like a lizard.
  • The mouth of this turtle is shaped like a hooked beak while its jaws have no teeth. Furthermore, the mouth is fairly jagged at the end, which is perfectly adapted for feeding on vegetation.
  • The top shell (known as carapace) of this turtle is shaped somewhat like a teardrop or perhaps more like a heart.
  • The shell is wide with a smooth surface.
  • The color of its carapace (upper shell) changes from dark or light brown to olive, gray or perhaps black.
  • There are dark brown spots and markings on the top shell.
  • The underside or bottom part of the green turtle (known as plastron) is yellowish white in color. Also, there are four scutes on the plastron of green turtles.
  • A baby green sea turtle is dark brown in color with white underside (or plastron).
  • As compare to land turtles, the carapace of these turtles is lighter in weight and more hydrodynamic. For this reason, green sea turtles can swim easily underwater.
  • Green turtles have large pair of flippers that are shaped more like paddles.
  • Each one of the four flippers contains single claw.
  • The color of the upper shell varies with different habitats.
  • As compare to male turtles, the female green turtle is relatively larger in size.
  • There is only a single pair of scales between the eyes of green sea turtle, known as prefrontal scales. Normally, sea turtles have more than one pair of prefrontal scales.
  • Besides, there are four overlapping scutes or scales (called lateral scutes) along the sides of the sea turtle.
  • In the middle of the upper shell or carapace, there are five vertebral scutes.
  • The eastern Pacific population of green turtles is relatively smaller in size and darker in appearance, which is why they are known as black sea turtles.
Green sea turtle image - green sea turtle facts for kids
Green Sea Turtle grazing sea grass at Akumal Bay – Photo © P. Lindgren

How Big Do Green Sea Turtles Get?

  • By carapace length, the adult turtle grows from 88 to 125 centimeters in length.
  • The size of the largest known green turtle is up to 153 centimeters.
  • Likewise, the subadults can be around 70 to 100 centimeters long.
  • The juveniles can be as long as 40 centimeters in carapace length.
  • Baby green turtles can grow around 5 to 10 centimeters in length.

How Much Does A Green Sea Turtle Weigh?

  • Generally, green sea turtles weigh around 150 to 419 pounds.
  • However, the maximum weight ever recorded of a green sea turtle is 871 pounds.
  • Green turtle has a weight range of around 250 to 450 pounds.
  • Baby green turtles weigh up to 1 ounce.

Read More:

Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts for Kids

Why are Green Sea Turtles Called Green?

Green turtle gets its name from the greenish color of its fat or skin, located beneath the carapace (or top half of the shell). Thus, green turtle is not actually green in color for sure. In fact it is quite the opposite. The color of its upper shell (carapace) varies and it is probably dark brown, gray or perhaps olive-colored.

Green Sea Turtle picture - Green Sea Turtle Facts For Kids
Green Sea Turtle at Turtle Beach, north shore Oahu, Hawaii – Photo ©  Jane Shelby Richardson

How Long Do Green Sea Turtles Live?

Generally, the lifespan of green sea turtles is estimated to be around 60 to 75 years.

Do Green Sea Turtles Migrate?

  • Green turtle is highly migratory and it covers lengthy migrations between its foraging ground and nesting site.
  • By means of their paddle-like flippers, green turtles are capable of swimming at a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour.
  • Normally, these turtles swim at a speed of not more than 2 miles per hour.
  • Not only this, few of the green turtles in Brazil swim as far as 1,400 miles to nest on Ascension Islands.
  • Strangely enough, some turtles are known to travel very long distances and even reaching as far as 3,000 miles.
  • In comparison to other sea turtles, green turtles tend to swim much faster.

How Many Eggs Do Green Sea Turtles Lay?

  • A female turtle lays a clutch size of 75 to 200 eggs.
  • In one breeding season, it lays around 3 to 6 clutches.
  • Every egg of a green turtle is about the size of a ping-pong ball.
  • The eggs are hatched at night and after 50 to 70 days.
  • The size of round-shaped eggs is 45 mm.
  • By means of their flippers, female turtles dig a pit for the eggs and go back to the sea after covering them.
  • The depth of the hole is 11 to 22 inches.
  • Green turtles mature at the age of 20 to 50 years.
  • Mating season in the Caribbean occurs between June and September.
Green sea turtle nesting - Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids
Green Sea Turtle nesting on the Beach in Tortuguero Costa Rica – Photo public.resource.org

Green Sea Turtle Nesting

  • A female green sea turtle nests after every 2 to 3 years.
  • For nesting, the female green turtle chooses the spot on the sandy beach and digs the pit by means of her flippers.
  • After she deposits her eggs, the female sea turtle covers them with sandy blanket.
  • Next, by means of her bottom part (called plastron), she tamps down the sand.
  • Finally, she flings the sand onto the nest as if nothing is there and then heads back to the sea.
  • When the hatchlings emerge, they tend to scurry into the sea but not without danger.
  • These hatchlings are on their own and receive no parental care.
  • As a result, most of the predators attack them during their brief journey into the water.
  • The nesting occurs at nighttime in order to avoid predators and intense heat of the day.
  • This whole process of nesting may take up to three hours.

Green Sea Turtle Reproduction

  • Green sea turtles reach maturity (in order to reproduce) at the age of around 25 to 35 years.
  • Some of these turtles take even more time to mature, say for instance 40 years or even more, making green turtles to have longest age of maturity among all marine turtles.
  • Generally, however, the estimated age of reproductive maturity is somewhere between 17 and 23 years.
  • Mating of green sea turtles takes place in shallow coastal waters.

Where Do Green Sea Turtles Live?

  • Green turtle occurs in tropical and subtropical warm waters around the world’s coastal regions.
  • They have a distinct population areas across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. These turtles also exist in the Indian Ocean.
  • Normally, these turtles inhabit shallow bodies of water. Adult individuals inhabit inshore bays and shallow coastal waters where they readily feed on lush grasses. Therefore, coral reefs and salt marshes are among the favorite habitats of sea turtles.
  • This turtle inhabits the northern parts of Indian Ocean as well as the Pacific, Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • These marine turtles usually occupy shallow coastal bays, inlets and reefs and often graze on beds of seagrasses.
  • In the Atlantic U.S. waters, these sea turtles exist in the Caribbean as well as from Massachusetts to Texas.
  • The range of green turtles in the western Atlantic extends far up to Canada. To the east of the Atlantic Ocean, they occur up to British Isles.

Where Are Green Sea Turtles Found?

  • The two largest nesting sites of these sea turtles are in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) and the Caribbean coast (Central America).
  • The breeding season of green turtles starts from June to August. In this period, they are often seen along the shores of Turkey and Cyprus.
  • Some of the other nesting sites are in Libya, Israel, Egypt and Syria.
  • The most important nesting grounds of Atlantic green turtles  occur in the islands of the North Atlantic and Caribbean; as well as the eastern coasts of the U.S. and South America.
  • Some of the major nesting sites in the Caribbean are found in Puerto Rico, Aves Island, Costa Rica and U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • In the waters of Florida, the major nesting site occurs in Hutchinson Island.
  • The beaches of French Guiana and Suriname hosts major nesting sites of green turtles in South America.
  • In the Indian Ocean, the major nesting sites of green turtles occur in India and Pakistan.
  • In the Pacific Ocean, some of the major nesting sites include Mexico, northern Australia, Hawaiian islands and southern portion of the Pacific.

What Do Green Sea Turtles Eat?

  • The green sea turtle diet varies with age. To begin with, green turtles are omnivorous species but the food habits change gradually over time.
  • Thus, the juvenile green turtles are mostly carnivores. In contrast, the adult green sea turtles are almost strictly herbivores.
  • The juvenile green turtles are more likely to eat following invertebrates but in lesser quantities:
  1. Sponges
  2. Crayfish
  3. Crabs
  4. Comb jellies
  5. Sea serpents
  6. Jellyfish
  7. Sales
  8. Mollusks
  9. Tube worms
  10. Eggs of sea hare
  11. Moss animals
  • The juvenile turtles often feed on large amounts of plants in salt marshes like salt-water cord grass and api api.
  • The most dominant food of green turtles in the Caribbean is seagrasses, including Thalassia testudinum.
  • Even though eastern pacific turtles primarily feed on algae and seaweeds, yet in comparison to Hawaiian green turtles, they tend to consume more animals.
  • The green sea turtle diet consists of a large amount of red and green algae including:
  1. Freshwater red algae
  2. Filamentous red algae
  3. Sea lettuce
  4. Green seaweed

How Do Green Sea Turtles Get Their Food?

  • Actually, green turtles do not have teeth. However, the beak-like mouth of these marine turtles have sharp edges.
  • Thus, with the help of this, they can easily scrape off vegetation like algae from the sea floor.
  • Moreover, green turtles graze on seagrass beds and bite off only the tips. Thus, the rest of the grass remain healthy.
  • According to research, the Hawaiian green sea turtles feed on more than 275 species of seaweed.

Why Are Green Sea Turtles Endangered?

  • It is unfortunate that population of green turtle is declining much more rapidly. In fact, in some regions, the turtles are wiped out completely.
  • Some of the green sea turtle threats are:
  1. Coastal development eliminates the nesting sites of green turtles
  2. Animals such as dogs quite often attack the nests
  3. Some native people may dig out the eggs for consumption. Besides, they may also hunt adult sea turtles for their hide and meat
  4. The fishing gear like trawls may sometimes trap the green turtles as a bycatch (i.e. getting hold of the species by mistake, and not intentionally) and thus, drowning them
  • Sadly, out of thousands of eggs, only one green turtle may live long enough to reach to adulthood.
  • Artificial lighting (such as street lamps and car headlights) often upsets female green turtles and it becomes rather difficult for them to lay eggs.
  • Moreover, lighting also confuses the hatchlings because it attracts them and therefore, they can’t make it to the sea.
  • The soft sandy beaches may also get thick and firm due to driving offroad vehicles on them. As a result, hatchlings may have to do a lot of hard work to come out of the nest.
  • In addition to the above green sea turtle threats, parasites such as leeches and barnacles also play an important role in the deaths of these turtles.
  • When the parasites stick to the turtle’s flippers and upper shell, they tend to damage the tissues and as a result, loss of blood occurs.
  • Besides, some of the other parasites that are dangerous for green turtles are nematodes and protozoans.
Juvenile Green Sea Turtle - Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids
Juvenile Green Sea Turtle – Photo Prilfish

What Eats Green Sea Turtles?

  • There are many green sea turtle predators out there but most of them largely preys on hatchlings of these turtles and these include reptiles, land mammals and crustaceans.
  • Immediately after the time of baby green sea turtles hatching, their life is in danger and predators like dogs, foxes and even crabs can eat them.
  • Apart from humans, the following mammals often feed on baby green sea turtle:
  1. Feral dogs
  2. Jaguars
  3. Red foxes
  4. Golden jackals
  • The predators for the juvenile green sea turtles are:
  1. Saltwater crocodiles
  2. Crabs
  • When a baby green sea turtle finally makes it to the water, it is still not out of danger since whitetip sharks and tiger sharks may also feast on it.
  • Sharks can also eat juvenile and even adult green turtles.

How Do Green Sea Turtles Protect Themselves

  • Generally, adult green turtles have very few predators.
  • However, they need to protect themselves from some of the most dangerous predators out in the ocean such as sharks.
  • Sadly, just like other sea turtles, green turtles are unable to draw their heads back into the shell.
  • But even so, the skin of these turtles is quite thick and their top shell is also fairly large and strong.
  • Due to the fact that green turtles possess thick layer of skin and hard shell, they are certainly not an easy picking for the predators.

Amazing Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids – Video for Kids

Why Are Green Sea Turtles Important?

  • The existence of green sea turtles is vital for the marine ecosystem.
  • As these turtles feed on the beds of seagrass, they do not really uproot the plants at all. In fact, green turtles only just cut off the tips of the plant while remaining plant is alive along with its roots (much like a lawn mower). This way, green turtles assist in the growth of seagrass beds and more importantly, the plant remains healthy.
  • Seagrass beds, in turn, become a healthy source of feeding habitats for many other marine fish.
  • Moreover, after the baby green sea turtles hatching occur, the remaining egg shell becomes a key source of nutrients.
  • Finally, the yellow tang fish of coral reef goes along with green turtles. In so doing, this fish tends to clean flippers and top shell of the green turtle, by eating its parasites and algae.

Interesting Facts About Green Sea Turtles

  • Like other sea turtles, green sea turtles cannot draw their neck back toward the shell.
  • In order to nest, the female green turtle often picks up the site on the same beach where she was born, with the help of magnetic clues.
  • Like other sea turtles, male green turtles never leave the water and stay underwater for almost their entire life. Female green turtles, however, do come ashore but only for nesting. As a result, scientists often manage to study only the female sea turtle.
  • In its entire life, the green sea turtle travels so much that it may cross the entire ocean for a number of times.
  • The normal dive of green turtles lasts for about 5 minutes. After that, they come onto the surface for 1 to 3 seconds in order to have an explosive breathe. The same is true for loggerhead sea turtles.
  • Green sea turtles can stay underwater for hours as long as they are taking rest or sleeping.
  • When green turtles swim too quickly (for instance, while they are running away from predators), they cannot remain in water for far too long due to the movement and so, they would need to come to the surface to breathe. This is why green turtles die quickly when any fishing gear traps them inside since they seek to move out fast and drown as a result.
  • After a female green turtle brings the nesting to a successful end and covers her eggs completely, she may hollow out another pit to serve as a ‘decoy nest’. This mock-up nest may lure the predators to itself while the real eggs remain out of danger.
  • The Hawaiian population of green turtles are frequent visitors to the shore and they are often seen climbing onto the beach to bask in the sunlight.
  • There is a salt gland close to the eye of a sea turtle. When the turtle releases excess salt through this gland, it seems like the green turtle is shedding tears.
  • If a female green turtle swims away from the male turtle or glides upward while her bottom part faces the male sea turtle, it clearly means she is not at all interested in mating with him.
  • In cooler environments, the baby green turtle turns into a male while in warm temperatures, female baby turtles are produced. By the way, this is true for all sea turtles.
  • There are several islands across the world that are called Turtle Island. These islands are named for the simple reason that female green turtles often nest on such coastal beaches.
  • The local people of the state of Hawaii call green turtle by the name of “honu”. They also recognize this turtle as a symbol of long life and good luck.

How Many Green Sea Turtles Are Left In The World?

According to an estimate, there are about 85,000 to 90,000 nesting green turtles in the world.

Interesting Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids – Video

Sources:

Seminoff, J.A. (Southwest Fisheries Science Center, U.S.). 2004. Chelonia mydas. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T4615A11037468. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T4615A11037468.en

Sea Turtle Conservancy

https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-green-sea-turtle/

World Wildlife Fund

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/green-turtle

North Florida Ecological Services Office – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

https://www.fws.gov/northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20factsheets/green-sea-turtle.htm

The National Wildlife Federation

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Reptiles/Sea-Turtles/Green-Sea-Turtle

Monterey Bay Aquarium 

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/reptiles/green-sea-turtle

NOAA Fisheries

http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_green_sea_turtle.html

MarineBio

http://www.marinebio.org/species.asp?id=51

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/profiles/reptiles/green-sea-turtle/

Oceana

http://oceana.org/marine-life/sea-turtles-reptiles/green-turtle

Audobon Nature Institute

https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/home/volunteers/groups/72-meet-the-animals-aquarium/735-green-sea-turtle

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory – University of Georgia

https://srelherp.uga.edu/turtles/chemyd.htm

National Aquarium

https://www.aqua.org/explore/animals/green-sea-turtle

Center for Biological Diversity

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/esa_works/profile_pages/PacificGreenSeaTurtle.html

National Park Service

https://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/nature/green.htm

Animal Diversity Web – University of Michigan/MUSEUM OF ZOOLOGY

https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Chelonia_mydas/

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