I’m unique among my fellow sea turtle species—I’m one of the largest species of turtle and am the only turtle that is strictly herbivorous as an adult. I eat sea grasses and algae (although juvenile green sea turtles will also eat crabs, sponges and jellyfish), which might be the reason I have the green-colored fat and cartilage that give me my name. I have a hard protective shell, but unlike land turtles, I can’t pull my head and flippers inside to protect myself.
Sometimes I can get entangled in marine debris like fishing nets or plastic strapping bands, which could cause me to drown. And I often mistake other debris like plastic bags or little plastic fragments as food. Additionally, I’m at risk from poachers who sell our meat and shells internationally—an estimated 30,000 green sea turtles are poached every year in Baja California alone. We are also prone to a tumor disease that can kill us. All of that combined means we’re officially endangered in the wild.
Did You Know?
Like humans, I breathe oxygen. Unlike humans, I can spend up to two hours underwater before I need to come up to the surface to breathe. I can also drink salt water by excreting the extra salt through “salt glands” behind my eyes. So, if I seem like I’m crying, don’t worry—I am just getting rid of salt!
Call me sentimental, but I like to nest on the same beach where I hatched. I don’t reach sexual maturity until I am at least 20 years old, and I use earth’s magnetic forces to navigate my way home (cool, right?). At night, I crawl up onto the beach and lay somewhere between 85-200 eggs under the sand. After two months, the juvenile sea turtles will emerge to dodge predators like birds and crabs in a mad dash to the ocean.
Surviving to adulthood is hard enough, and climate change is making it even harder. Rising sea levels could flood nesting beaches and make it harder for females to lay their eggs. Additionally, temperature impacts the sex of the eggs—cooler eggs produce males and warmer eggs produce females. If the average temperature of the nests increases, we will see a disproportionate number of females to males, making it harder to find mates.
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