Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Chelonia mydas
(green sea turtle)

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Datasheet

Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 29 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Threatened Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Chelonia mydas
  • Preferred Common Name
  • green sea turtle
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Reptilia

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Eggs being laid by Chelonia mydas.
TitleEggs
CaptionEggs being laid by Chelonia mydas.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Eggs being laid by Chelonia mydas.
EggsEggs being laid by Chelonia mydas.Joan M. Whittier
Hawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumours. The mouth tumors, which are unique to Hawaiian greens, can occur inside the mouth and throat, impairing both breathing and feeding.  Eye tumors impair vision and can blind the turtle. The large tumors around the flippers can impair swimming. Although FP tumors are benign, they can easily be a significant factor in a turtle's demise and result in death.
TitleHawaiian green turtle severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP)
CaptionHawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumours. The mouth tumors, which are unique to Hawaiian greens, can occur inside the mouth and throat, impairing both breathing and feeding. Eye tumors impair vision and can blind the turtle. The large tumors around the flippers can impair swimming. Although FP tumors are benign, they can easily be a significant factor in a turtle's demise and result in death.
Copyright©Peter Bennett & Ursula Keuper-Bennett-1992 - CC BY 3.0
Hawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumours. The mouth tumors, which are unique to Hawaiian greens, can occur inside the mouth and throat, impairing both breathing and feeding.  Eye tumors impair vision and can blind the turtle. The large tumors around the flippers can impair swimming. Although FP tumors are benign, they can easily be a significant factor in a turtle's demise and result in death.
Hawaiian green turtle severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP)Hawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) severely afflicted with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumours. The mouth tumors, which are unique to Hawaiian greens, can occur inside the mouth and throat, impairing both breathing and feeding. Eye tumors impair vision and can blind the turtle. The large tumors around the flippers can impair swimming. Although FP tumors are benign, they can easily be a significant factor in a turtle's demise and result in death.©Peter Bennett & Ursula Keuper-Bennett-1992 - CC BY 3.0
Chelonia mydas hatchling.
TitleHatchling
CaptionChelonia mydas hatchling.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Chelonia mydas hatchling.
HatchlingChelonia mydas hatchling.Joan M. Whittier
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Basking on a beach, north of Hale'iwa, Hawaii, USA.  November, 2011.
TitleGreen sea turtle with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors
CaptionGreen sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Basking on a beach, north of Hale'iwa, Hawaii, USA. November, 2011.
Copyright©Andrew Danielson-2011 - CC BY-SA 3.0
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Basking on a beach, north of Hale'iwa, Hawaii, USA.  November, 2011.
Green sea turtle with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumorsGreen sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with significant Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors. Basking on a beach, north of Hale'iwa, Hawaii, USA. November, 2011.©Andrew Danielson-2011 - CC BY-SA 3.0
Chelonia mydas laying eggs.
TitleChelonia mydas
CaptionChelonia mydas laying eggs.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Chelonia mydas laying eggs.
Chelonia mydasChelonia mydas laying eggs.Joan M. Whittier
Chelonia mydas hatchery in Malaysia.
TitleHatchery
CaptionChelonia mydas hatchery in Malaysia.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Chelonia mydas hatchery in Malaysia.
HatcheryChelonia mydas hatchery in Malaysia.Joan M. Whittier
Ovary of Chelonia mydas.
TitleOvary
CaptionOvary of Chelonia mydas.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Ovary of Chelonia mydas.
OvaryOvary of Chelonia mydas.Joan M. Whittier
Turtle hatchling.
TitleHatchling
CaptionTurtle hatchling.
CopyrightJoan M. Whittier
Turtle hatchling.
HatchlingTurtle hatchling.Joan M. Whittier

Identity

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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

Overview

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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 Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Reptilia
  •                     Order: Testudines
  •                         Family: Cheloniidae
  •                             Genus: Chelonia
  •                                 Species: Chelonia mydas

Description

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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).

Distribution

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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 Table

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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/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Sea Areas

Atlantic, Eastern CentralPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Atlantic, NortheastPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Atlantic, SoutheastPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Atlantic, SouthwestPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Atlantic, Western CentralPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Indian Ocean, EasternPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
Indian Ocean, WesternPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
Mediterranean and Black SeaPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Pacific, Eastern CentralPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Pacific, Western CentralPresentNativeCogger,, 2000

Asia

ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Hong KongPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-GujaratPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
IndonesiaPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
-Irian JayaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-JavaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-KalimantanPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-MoluccasPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-Nusa TenggaraPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-SulawesiPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-SumatraPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-SabahPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-SarawakPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
OmanPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
PhilippinesPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
SingaporePresentNativeCogger,, 2000
VietnamPresentNativeCogger,, 2000

North America

MexicoPresentNativeCarr, 1980
USAPresentNative
-FloridaPresentNativeCarr, 1980
-HawaiiPresentNativeCarr, 1980

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeCarr, 1980
Costa RicaPresentNativeCarr, 1980

South America

BrazilPresentNativeCarr, 1980

Europe

CyprusPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
GreecePresentNativeCogger,, 2000

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-QueenslandPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
-Western AustraliaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
FijiPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
New CaledoniaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
Papua New GuineaPresentNativeCogger,, 2000
Solomon IslandsPresentNativeCogger,, 2000

References

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Aguirre AA; Balazs GH; Spraker TR; Gross TS, 1995. Adrenal and hematological responses to stress in juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) afflicted with fibropapillomas in the Hawaiian Islands. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 28:109-114.

Aitken RNC; Solomon SE; Amoroso EC, 1976. Observations on the histology of the ovary of the Costa Rican green turtle, Chelonia mydas L. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 24:189-204.

Balazs GH, 1979. Synopsis of biological data on the green turtle in the Hawaiian islands. Contract Report 79-ABA-02422, Washington DC, USA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, 180 pp.

Bjorndal KA, 1979. Cellulose digestion and volatile fatty acid production in the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 63A:127-133.

Bjorndal KA, 1985. Nutritional ecology of sea turtles. Copeia, 1985:736-751.

Bjorndal KA; Bolten AB; Chaloupka MY, 2000. Green turtle somatic growth model: evidence for density dependence. Ecological Applications, 10:269-282.

Broderick A; Godley B; Hays G, 2001. Metabolic heating and the prediction of sex ratios for green turtles. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 74:161-170.

Bustard HR; Greenham P, 1969. Nesting behaviour of the green sea turtle on a Great Barrier Reef Island. Herpetologica, 25:93-102.

Carr A, 1980. Some problems of sea turtle ecology. American Zoologist, 20:489-498.

Carr AF; Meylan AB, 1980. Evidence of passive migration of green turtle hatchlings in sargassum. Copeia, 1980:366-368.

Cogger HG, 2000. Turtles and Tortoises. In: Cogger HG, ed. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Sydney, Australia: Reed New Holland, 176-185.

Environment Australia, 1998. Draft recovery plan for marine turtles in Australia. Canberra, Australia, Wildlife Management Section Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia.

Fowler LE, 1979. Hatching success and nest predation in the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Ecology, 60:946-955.

Frye FL, 1991. Hematology as applied to clinical reptile medicine. In, Frye FL, ed. Reptile Care, and Atlas of Diseases and Treatments. Neptune City, Florida, USA: TFH Publishers Inc., 211-234.

Gaunt AS; Gans C, 1969. Mechanics of respiration in the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina (Linne). Journal of Morphology, 128:195-228.

Georges A; Limpus CJ; Parmenter CJ, 1993. Natural history of the Chelonia. In: Glasby CJ, Ross GJB, Beesley PL, eds. Fauna of Australia Vol 2A Amphibia & Reptilia. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service, 120-128.

Gutzke W; Chymiy D, 1988. Sensitive periods during embryogeny for hormonally induced sex determination in turtles. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 71:265-267.

Gyuris E, 1994. The rate of predation by fishes on hatchlings of green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Coral Reefs, 13:137-144.

Hamann M; Limpus CJ; Whittier J, 2002. Patterns of lipid storage and mobilization in the female green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 172:485-493.

Hirth HF, 1980. Some aspects of the nesting behaviour and reproductive biology of sea turtles. American Zoologist, 20:507-524.

Ibrahim K; van de Merwe J; Limpus CL; Whittier J, 2004. Thermal biology of nests of Chelonia mydas in eastern peninsular Malaysia. Proceeding of the 23rd Symposium Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In Press.

ISSG, 2011. Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. http://www.issg.org/database

IUCN, 2002. The IUCN red list of threatened animals. Gland, Switzerland: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

IUCN, 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org

Jessop T; Limpus CJ; Whittier J, 1999. Plasma steroid interactions during high density green turtle (Chelonia mydas) mass nesting and associated disturbance. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 115:90-100.

Jessop TJ; Limpus CL; Whittier J, 2002. Nocturnal activity in the green sea turtle alters daily profiles of melatonin and corticosterone. Hormones and Behaviour, 41:357-365.

Jessop TS; FitzSimmons NN; Limpus CJ; Whittier JM, 1999. Interactions between behavior and steroids during the scramble mating system of the promiscuous green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Hormones and Behaviour, 36:86-97.

Lanyon; JM; Limpus; CJ; Marsh; H, 1989. Dugongs and turtles: grazers in the sea grass system. In: Larkum AWK, McComb AJ, Shepard SA, eds. Biology of Seagrasses. Amsterdam, Holland: Elsevier, 610-634.

Legler J, 1993. Morphology and physiology of the Chelonia. In: Glasby CJ, Ross GJB, Beesley PL, eds. Fauna of Australia Vol 2A Amphibia & Reptilia. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service, 108-119.

Legler J; Georges A, 1993. Biogeography and phylogeny of the Chelonia. In: Glasby CJ, Ross GJB, Beesley PL, eds. Fauna of Australia Vol 2A Amphibia & Reptilia. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service, 129-132.

Licht P, 1980. Evolutionary and functional aspects of pituitary gonadotropins in the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. American Zoologist, 20:565-574.

Licht P; Rainey W; Cliffton K, 1979. Serum gonadotropins and steroids associated with breeding activities in the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. I. Captive animals. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 39:274-289.

Limpus CJ, 1982. The status of Australian sea turtle populations. In: Bjorndal, K, ed. Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution Press, 297-303.

Limpus CJ; Couper PJ; Read MA, 1994. The green turtle, Chelonia mydas, in Queensland: population structure in a warm temperate feeding area. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 35:135-154.

Limpus CJ; Miller JD, 1993. Family Cheloniidae. Glasby, CJ, Ross, GJB, Beesley, PL, eds. Fauna of Australia Vol 2A Amphibia & Reptilia. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service, 133-138.

Limpus CJ; Walter DG, 1980. The growth of immature green turtles (Chleonia mydas) under natural conditions. Herpetologica, 36:162-165.

Lombard CD, 2006. Protecting endangered sea turtle nesting habitat through invasive vegetation removal, St. Croix USVI. 2006 Grants Report: Volunteers Working With Invasives, US Fish and Wildlife Service. http://www.fws.gov/refuges/IS/2006/IGR_display_IGR_Internet_2006.cfm?ID=69

Meylan AB; Meylan PA, 1999. Introduction to the evolution, life history and biology of sea turtles. In: Eckert KL, Bjorndal KA, Abreu-Grobois FA, Donnelly M, eds. Research and Management Techniques for the Conservation of Sea Turtles. Washington, DC, USA IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist group Publication, 4:3-5.

Miller JD, 1985. Embryology of sea turtles. In: Gans C, Billet F, Maderson P, eds. Biology of the Reptilia Volume 14-Development A. New York, USA: John Wiley Press, 269-328.

Miller JD; Limpus CJ, 1981. Incubation period and sexual differentiation in the green turtle Chelonia mydas. In: Banks CB, Martin A, eds. Proceedings of the Melbourne Herpetological Symposium, Melbourne, Australia, The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, 66-73.

Morreale S; Ruiz G; Spotila J; Standora E, 1982. Temperature-dependent sex determination: current practices threaten conservation of sea turtles. Science, 216:1245-1247.

Mrosovsky N, 1982. Sex ratio bias in hatchling sea turtles from artificially incubated eggs. Biological Conservation, 23:309-314.

Mrosovsky N; Dutton PH; Whitmore CP, 1984. Sex ratios of two species of sea turtles nesting in Suriname. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 62:2227-2239.

Mrosovsky N; Yntema C, 1980. Temperature dependence of sexual differentiation in sea turtles: implications for conservation practices. Biological Conservation, 18:271-280.

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Norman JA; Moritz C; Limpus CJ, 1994. Mitochondrial DNA control regional polymorphisms: genetic markers for ecological studies of marine turtles. Molecular Ecology, 3:363-373.

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Pieau C; Dorizzi M, 1981. Determination of temperature sensitive stages for sexual differentiation of the gonads in the embryos of the turtle, Emys orbicularis. Journal of Morphology, 170:373-382.

Pilcher NJ; Enderby S, 2001. Effects of prolonged retention in hatcheries on green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling swimming speed and survival. Journal of Herpetology, 35:633-638.

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Ulrich GF; Owen DW, 1974. Preliminary observations on the reproduction of Chelonia mydas under farm conditions. Proceedings World Mariculture Society, 5:205-214.

Ulrich GF; Parkes AS, 1978. The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas): further observations on breeding in captivity. Journal of Zoology, London, 185:237-251.

Van de Merwe J; Ibrahim K; Whittier J, 2004. Parameters affecting nesting success in Chelonia mydas in eastern Penisular Malaysia: effects of shading and nest depths. Proceedings of the 23nd International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 2003, In Press.

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Work TM; Balazs GH, 1999. Relating tumour score to haematology in green turtles with fibropapillomatosis in Hawaii. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 35:804-807.

Work TM; Balazs GH; Chang SP; Berestecky J, 2000. Assessing humoural and cell-mediated immune response in Hawaiian green turtles, Chelonia mydas. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 74:179-194.

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Yntema CL, 1976. Effects of incubation temperatures on sexual differentiation in the turtle, Chelydra serpentina. Journal of Morphology, 150:453-462.

Yntema CL, 1979. Temperature levels and periods of sex determination during incubation of eggs of Chelydra serpentina. Journal of Morphology, 159:17-27.

Yntema CL; Mrosovosky N, 1979. Incubation temperature and sex ratio in hatchling loggerhead turtles: a preliminary report. Marine Turtle Newsletter, 11:9-10.

Yntema CL; Mrosovosky N, 1980. Sexual differentiation in hatchling loggerheads (Caretta caretta) incubated at different controlled temperatures. Herpetologica, 36:33-36.

Contributors

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Main Author
Joan Whittier
Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology, Center for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

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