Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:    and  

General Information

The green sea turtle grows to a maximum size of about 4 feet and a weight of 440 pounds. It has a heart-shaped shell, small head, and single-clawed flippers. Color is variable. Hatchlings generally have a black carapace, white plastron, and white margins on the shell and limbs. The adult carapace is smooth, keelless, and light to dark brown with dark mottling; the plastron is whitish to light yellow. Adult heads are light brown with yellow markings. Identifying characteristics include four pairs of costal scutes, none of which borders the nuchal scute, and only one pair of prefrontal scales between the eyes.

Population detail

The FWS is currently monitoring the following populations of the Green sea turtle 

  • Population location: Central South Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Endangered

  • Population location: Central West Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Endangered

  • Population location: Mediterranean DPS

    Listing status:  Endangered

  • Population location: North Atlantic DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

    • States/US Territories in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  Florida
    • US Counties in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
  • Population location: East Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: Southwest Indian DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: Central North Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: South Atlantic DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: Southwest Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: North Indian DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

  • Population location: East Indian-West Pacific DPS

    Listing status:  Threatened

 
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
05/06/2016 Pacific Region (Region 1) Central South Pacific DPS
05/06/2016 Pacific Region (Region 1) Central West Pacific DPS
05/06/2016 Foreign (Headquarters) Mediterranean DPS
05/06/2016 Southeast Region (Region 4) North Atlantic DPS
05/06/2016 California/Nevada Region (Region 8) East Pacific DPS
05/06/2016 Foreign (Headquarters) Southwest Indian DPS
05/06/2016 Pacific Region (Region 1) Central North Pacific DPS
05/06/2016 Southeast Region (Region 4) South Atlantic DPS
05/06/2016 Foreign (Headquarters) Southwest Pacific DPS
05/06/2016 Foreign (Headquarters) North Indian DPS
05/06/2016 Foreign (Headquarters) East Indian-West Pacific DPS

» Federal Register Documents

Federal Register Documents
Date Citation Page Title
08/01/2012 77 FR 45571 45574 90-Day Finding on a Petition To Delist the Green Turtle in Hawaii and Notice of Status Review
03/23/2015 80 FR 15271 15337 Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings
08/26/2015 80 FR 51763 51764 Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Third Extension of Comment Period
04/06/2016 81 FR 20057 20090 Final Rule To List Eleven Distinct Population Segments of the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings Under the Endangered Species Act; Final Rule
06/17/2015 80 FR 34594 34595 Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Public Hearings; Extension of Comment Period
07/27/2015 80 FR 44322 Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Proposed rule; Second Extension of Comment Period

» Recovery

Current Recovery Plan(s)
Date Title Plan Action Status Plan Status
10/29/1991 Recovery Plan for U.S. Population of Atlantic Green Turtle View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
10/29/1991 Recovery Plan for U.S. Population of Atlantic Green Turtle View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
01/12/1998 Recovery Plan for U.S. Pacific Populations of the East Pacific Green Turtle View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
01/12/1998 Recovery Plan for U.S. Pacific Populations of the Green Turtle View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
Five Year Review
Date Title
08/22/2007 Green sea turtle 5-yr review
08/22/2007 Green sea turtle 5-yr review

» Critical Habitat

No critical habitat rules have been published for the Green sea turtle.

» Conservation Plans

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more)
HCP Plan Summaries
Crum, Blaine & Linda (ABM)
Escambia County Beaches
FML81A, LLC (Greg Miller)
FML81,LLC (Greg MIller)
Indian River County Sea Turtle
Roberds, George
Sage Development Amendment #1
Sizemore, Daniel (ABM)
Stallworth Preserve
Stallworth Preserve - amendment #1
Suggs, Raymond & Dale(Hancock, John) ABM
Volusia Beaches
Volusia County
Waddell, Raymond

» Petitions

» Life History

Habitat Requirements

Green turtles are generally found in fairly shallow waters (except when migrating) inside reefs, bays, and inlets. The turtles are attracted to lagoons and shoals with an abundance of marine grass and algae. Open beaches with a sloping platform and minimal disturbance are required for nesting. Green turtles apparently have a strong nesting site fidelity and often make long distance migrations between feeding grounds and nesting beaches. Hatchlings have been observed to seek refuge and food in Sargassum rafts.

Food Habits

Hatchling green turtles eat a variety of plants and animals, but adults feed almost exclusively on seagrasses and marine algae.

Movement / Home Range

The green turtle has a worldwide distribution in tropical and subtropical waters. Major green turtle nesting colonies in the Atlantic occur on Ascension Island, Aves Island, Costa Rica, and Surinam. Within the U.S., green turtles nest in small numbers in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and in larger numbers in Florida. The Florida green turtle nesting aggregation is recognized as a regionally significant colony. About 200 to 1,100 females are estimated to nest on beaches in the continental U.S. In the U.S. Pacific, over 90 percent of nesting throughout the Hawaiian archipelago occurs at the French Frigate Shoals, where about 200 to 700 females nest each year. Elsewhere in the U.S. Pacific, nesting takes place at scattered locations in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Guam, and American Samoa. In the western Pacific, the largest green turtle nesting aggregation in the world occurs on Raine Island, Australia, where thousands of females nest nightly in an average nesting season. In the Indian Ocean, major nesting beaches occur in Oman where 6,000 to 20,000 females are reported to nest annually.

Reproductive Strategy

The nesting season varies with the locality. In the Southeastern U.S., it is roughly June through September. Nesting occurs nocturnally at 2, 3, or 4-year intervals. Only occasionally do females produce clutches in successive years. A female may lay as a many as nine clutches within a nesting season (overall average is about 3.3 nests per season) at about 13-day intervals. Clutch size varies from 75 to 200 eggs, with an average clutch size of 136 eggs reported for Florida. Incubation ranges from about 45 to 75 days, depending on incubation temperatures. Hatchlings generally emerge at night. Age at sexual maturity is believed to be 20 to 50 years.

Other

The term "green" applies not to the external coloration, but to the color of the turtle's subdermal fat.

» Other Resources

NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.