Green turtle, Lizard Island Click to enlarge image
Green turtle, Lizard Island Image: Lyle Vail and Anne Hoggett
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
    VULNERABLE (VU)
  • Classification
    Species
    mydas
    Genus
    Chelonia
    Family
    Cheloniidae
    Subclass
    Testudinata
    Class
    Reptilia
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    40-120 cm

Introduction

Only three species of marine turtles are known to regularly occur in Sydney waters: the Green Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle.

Identification

The Green Turtle has a small head compared with its body and strong front flippers to glide through the water. It gets its name from the colour of its fat rather than the colour of its carapace (shell). The Green Turtle, like all reptiles, has lungs and must come to the surface about every half hour to breathe air.

Habitat

Green Turtles live in coastal waters, seagrass, oceans and coral reefs.

Distribution

Green Turtles are found in the tropical and subtropical areas of the Indo-Pacific region.



Feeding and diet

Although juveniles are carnivorous, adult Green Turtles are thought to be entirely herbivorous, feeding on seagrass and algae.

Life history cycle

Marine turtles spend their entire life at sea, except for nesting females, which crawl onto the beach to lay their eggs. They choose a site high on the beach, dig a hole with their strong flippers, and lay about 100 eggs before covering them with sand. Females appear to return to the same area each time to breed, which is also the same area where they were born. Marine turtles grow slowly and take between 30 and 50 years to reach sexual maturity.

Conservation status

Only three species of marine turtles are known to regularly occur in Sydney waters-the Green Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle. There are seven species of marine turtles in the world and six occur in Australian waters. All six species have suffered population declines as a result of pollution, entanglement in fishing nets and egg predation by exotic species such as foxes and dogs.

In some parts of the world, Green Turtles are hunted for their meat and eggs and used to make turtle soup. All turtles are protected in Australian waters.