Green sea turtles are rarely seen on land, but when they do make it to shore, they can stop traffic – beach traffic that is. Green sea turtles are an endangered species with drastically reduced population sizes. Females use beaches throughout the southeast United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii to lay their eggs. A green sea turtle’s shell (called a carapace) is the largest and most noticeable part of the animal. The shell covers most of the body, except for the flippers and head. Despite its name, a green sea turtle’s shell is not always green. The shell can be a blend of different colors including, brown, dark olive, gray or black. The shell is also smooth and heart-shaped. The underside of the shell (called the plastron) is a yellowish-white color. Adult green sea turtles are herbivores. The jaw is serrated to help the turtle easily chew their primary food source -seagrasses and algae. Green sea turtles roam the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, staying primarily in tropical or subtropical waters. Some examples include the east and west coasts of Florida, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and off the Pacific coast of Mexico. There is also a population in Hawaii that is thought to be genetically isolated, meaning they do not breed with other populations. Those turtles remain in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands their entire lives. Other populations of green turtles are known for their long distance migrations between feeding and nesting grounds. The green sea turtle gets its name from the green-colored fat tissue under its shell. The fat has a green color because the adult turtle’s diet consists of sea-grass and algae. The Hawaiian name for the green turtle is Honu. Female green sea turtles reach sexual maturity when they are 25-50 years old and then begin returning to their natal beaches every 2-4 years to nest. Mating begins in March, and females nest primarily between May and September. The peak of the nesting season occurs in June and July. The females nest at night every 12-14 days, laying 5 clutches, on average during one nesting season. One of the ways that researchers monitor sea turtle populations is to count the number of nests that are laid by adult females on important nesting beaches. Based on nesting beach surveys, green turtle populations appear to be stable or increasing at some of the key rookeries in the Atlantic, but with the exception of Hawaii are declining in the Pacific.
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