Atlantic green turtle
Sea turtles

Atlantic green turtle

By: Johan

Atlantic green turtle – Classification
Green sea turtles are found all the world’s oceans. Their physical appearance varies from population to population, but despite these outer differences they are considered members of the same species - Chelonia mydas. Today, there are two recognized subspecies of Chelonia mydas, the Atlantic green turtle Chelonia mydas mydas and the Eastern Pacific green turtle Chelonia mydas agassizii. The Hawaiian green sea turtle is a genetically isolated variant of Chelonia mydas agassizii, but it is not considered a separate subspecies.

Atlantic green turtle – Range
The Atlantic green turtle inhabits the North American and South American Atlantic coast. They are also frequently spotted along the African Atlantic coast and venture as far south as South Africa. The Atlantic green turtle are often seen along the coastline and around islands since they feed not only on algae, but also on sea weed that grows in comparatively shallow waters. Mexico, Costa Rica, Guyana, Suriname and Dominica are all famous for having important nesting grounds for the Atlantic green turtle. Before the 18th century, huge populations of Atlantic green turtle lived along the coast from North Carolina to the north and down to Argentina in the south. The Atlantic green turtle can be found further north as well, up to the state of Massachusetts in New England, but in lesser numbers.

Atlantic green turtle –  Diet
The adult Atlantic green turtle feeds chiefly sea grasses and algae. The algae will eventually turn the body fat of the animal green; hence the name Atlantic green turtle. Juveniles are omnivore and will happily gulp down jellyfish, fish eggs and other suitable prey. The Atlantic green turtle does not reach sexual maturity until it is very old, typically 20-30 years of age, and the low protein content in its herbivore diet might be a contributing reason for this late reproductive maturity.

The diet of the adult Atlantic green turtle is also very low in vitamin D, and the Atlantic green turtle will therefore occasionally venture onto land in order to bask in the sun. They do however spend the vast majority of their life in the water. Some researchers also claim that sun basking on the beach is a way for the Atlantic green turtle to increase its body temperature and metabolism. It may also be a way of escaping sharks.

Atlantic green turtle – Nesting beaches
Important nesting sites for the Atlantic green turtle can be found in Dominica, Suriname, Guyana, Costa Rica and Mexico. If you want to visit a nesting site for the Atlantic green turtle in the United States, you can for instance go to Florida, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Please note that it is extremely important not to disturb the Atlantic green turtle while nesting. In many countries eco-tourism has however provided much needed resources for protecting and guarding nesting beaches, so travelling to a nesting beach can be a way of helping the Atlantic green turtle to survive. The female Atlantic green turtle nests every two to three years and can travel up to 1,000 miles to reach the right nesting beach. Nesting occurs approximately every 12th day during the nesting season, and roughly 3 to 5 times all in all. The average female Atlantic green turtle will deposit 115 eggs in each nest and leave them to incubate. The Atlantic green turtle offspring will hatch after roughly 45-60 days. If the sand has been comparatively cold, the emerging hatchlings will be male. If the sand temperature has been comparatively high, the offspring will instead be female.


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