Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle)
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Chelonia mydas Linnaeus, 1758
Preferred Common Name
- green sea turtle
Other Scientific Names
- Chelonia agassizii Bocourt, 1868
- Chelonia mydas agassizii Bocourt, 1868
- Chelonia mydas mydas Linnaeus, 1758
- Testudo mydas Linnaeus, 1758
International Common Names
- English: common green sea turtle; green turtle; turtle, green
- Spanish: tortuga prieta; tortuga-marina verde-del Atlántico
- French: tortue verte de mer
Local Common Names
- China: lu se wu gui
- Indonesia: penyu hijau
- Malaysia: penyu agar
OverviewTop of page
The green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, is considered to be an endangered species and is on the Red List for Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 2002). Among signatory countries, the Conservation In Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits international trade in C. mydas and its products. Worldwide marine turtle populations have declined significantly since the 1900s, mainly due to negative impacts of human activities such as commercial and traditional turtle and egg harvesting, incidental capture, habitat alteration and degradation, marine pollution, boat strikes and disease (Environment Australia, 1998; National Marine Fisheries Service, 1998; Meylan and Meylan, 1999). As an endangered species, most countries overseeing waters or beaches on which C. mydas is found have a management plan for species recovery that may include some degree of protection of eggs, turtles, and habitats, population monitoring, or management strategies aimed at assisting population recovery. The species is included in the Aquaculture Compendium with the aim of assisting these efforts, rather than encouraging commercial production or use of turtle products. It is included in the Invasive Species Compendium because of the threat posed by some invasive species.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Testudines
- Family: Cheloniidae
- Genus: Chelonia
- Species: Chelonia mydas
DescriptionTop of page
Chelonia mydas is the second largest extant species of marine turtle and has a pan-global tropical and subtropical distribution. The species is entirely marine in habit and only spends a few hours on land at nesting and immediately after hatching. Most of the lifespan is spent in relatively shallow interbreeding feeding habitats that may range from 10 to over 3000 km in distance from the nesting beaches. C. mydas has a high juvenile mortality and a slow growth rate (an estimated time to sexual maturity of 30 to 50 years in the wild) (Limpus and Miller, 1993; Bjorndal et al., 2000). Mature females nest intermittently, annually in a few populations, but on average at intervals of 6 to 8 years (Balaz, 1979; Limpus, 1982). Males may breed annually or at shorter intervals than females. At each breeding, females produce clutches of 80-120 eggs at 2-week intervals, from one to ten clutches, averaging six clutches in a breeding season (Hirth, 1980).
A hatching success rate of 80% occurs from protected nests. Hatchling sex is determined by a temperature-dependent mechanism. There is no parental care in turtles and hatchlings on emergence exhibit highly sensitive imprinting behaviours to a variety of physical cues. After hatching C. mydas hatchlings emerge from their nests, run down the beach and rapidly swim for a period of 24-48 hours (Pilcher and Enderby, 2001). In the wild, survival of hatchlings is thought to be very low due to high levels of predation, with less than 85% thought to survive the first 5 to 10 years of life (Gyuris, 1994). Hatchlings become pelagic for up to 15 years, at which time they migrate to a feeding ground. Few studies have been completed of this species in their feeding habitat, but those that have been done suggest similar fidelity to specific regions or areas as is seen when nesting (Limpus et al., 1994; Bjorndal et al., 2000). Genetic assessment of the species suggests that regional areas have discrete, genetically-distinct populations that should be protected as separate units of biological diversity (Norman et al., 1994).
C. mydas is the only species of marine turtle that has been successfully farmed in captivity, and captive animals exhibit similar breeding seasons to that observed in their wild counterparts (Wood and Wood, 1980). Overall, farmed animals grow faster, mature at an earlier age, and are more fecund than animals in the wild, probably due to dietary supplementation in captivity. However, the long time to maturity (8 to 9 years) in farmed stock makes captive rearing of animals a commercially expensive exercise. Moreover, captive-reared stock, whether for breeding or for ‘head starting’ wild populations, may not be suitable for release, may not home to feeding or nesting areas, and arguably waste scarce conservation funding (Pritchard, 1980). Hatchery production of hatchlings under semi-natural conditions, as well as intensive protection of nests in situ are widespread management techniques used to assist in population recovery. Hatchery management procedures have improved in terms of increasing hatching success, hatchling health and sex ratios (Ibrahim et al., 2004; van de Merwe, 2004). However, effects of hatchery production over the long term on natural populations are unknown (Pilcher and Enderby, 2001).
DistributionTop of page
Chelonia mydas have a pan-global distribution, with nesting on suitable sandy beaches throughout the tropics and subtropics where sand temperatures exceed 26°C for at least 3 months.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Atlantic, Eastern Central||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Atlantic, Northeast||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Atlantic, Southeast||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Atlantic, Southwest||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Atlantic, Western Central||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Indian Ocean, Eastern||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|Indian Ocean, Western||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|Mediterranean and Black Sea||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Pacific, Eastern Central||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Pacific, Western Central||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Hong Kong||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|India||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Indonesia||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Irian Jaya||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|-Nusa Tenggara||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|Malaysia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Peninsular Malaysia||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
Central America and Caribbean
|Cayman Islands||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|Costa Rica||Present||Native||Carr, 1980|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|-Western Australia||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|New Caledonia||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
|Solomon Islands||Present||Native||Cogger,, 2000|
Invasive Species ThreatsTop of page
|Invasive Species||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Chelonid herpesvirus 5||Florida||Pathogenic; Pest and disease transmission||IUCN, 2014; National Marine Fisheries Service, 2007|
|Felis catus (cat)||Seychelles||Predation||ISSG, 2011|
|Procyon lotor (raccoon)||USA||Predation||Ratnaswamy and Warren, 1998|
|Sesbania sericea (silky sesban)||United States Virgin Islands||Rooting||Lombard, 2006|
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology, Center for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
Distribution MapsTop of page
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