Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Key link in the marine food chain
Sea turtles fill an important ecological role in ocean ecosystems by controlling prey species and themselves providing food to larger predators such as fish, sharks and birds.
Older than dinosaurs
Green sea turtles are reptiles whose ancestors took to the sea about 150 million years ago. They are one of the few species so ancient that they watched the dinosaurs evolve and become extinct.
No place to hide
Like other sea turtles, the green turtle cannot pull its head into its shell.
The largest hard-shelled marine turtle in the world, green sea turtles can grow to 5 feet and weigh up to 500 lbs.
Unlike most sea turtles, adult green turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grass and algae. Juveniles, however, also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish and sponges.
Grass makes them green
The green sea turtle’s carapace, or shell, is usually brown or olive. Their name comes from the greenish color of the fat beneath their skin, due to the algae and grasses they eat.
Occasionally seen sunbathing alongside seals and albatrosses, the green turtle is one of the few marine turtles known to leave the water other than at nesting times.
On land turtles are slow, but in the water, their powerful flippers allow them to swim gracefully at speeds up to 35 mph!
When the water’s warm, it’s fine
Though marine turtles live in every ocean but the Arctic, green sea turtles live in tropical and subtropical waters and are commonly found (except when migrating) inside reefs, bays, and inlets.
Hatchlings face a dangerous journey
Female turtles dig a pit in the sand, fill it with a clutch of 100 to 200 eggs and return to the sea, leaving the eggs to hatch after about two months. Babies hatch at night to avoid predators, but many never reach the sea.
Boy or girl? How to predict
The hatchlings’ gender depends on the sand temperature. Less dense, warmer sand decreases incubation time and results in more female hatchlings.
Turtle tears don’t mean they’re sad
Green sea turtles possess a salt excretory gland at the corner of the eye – they may look like they are crying, but they’re really adjusting their body’s water balance.
WWF's Work with Sea Turtles
Six of the seven species of marine turtles are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered. WWF’s Global Marine Turtle Program seeks to reduce the loss of turtle habitat, the negative impact of bycatch on turtles and illegal trade in turtle products such as meat and eggs. WWF works to protect nesting beaches, promotes ecotourism at sea turtle sites that involves and benefits local communities, lobbies for turtle-friendly fishing practices and supports regional and international agreements to conserve marine turtles.