Galapagos Green Turtle

galapagos green turtle

Watching a Galapagos Green Turtle can be an outstanding wildlife show in this famous Archipelago.


The scientific name of this turtle is Chelonia mydas and every year there are around 1,200 to 3,000 females nesting on half of the Islands in Galapagos.

They can weight between one and two hundred pounds.

Female turtles tend to be larger than males.

Galapagos sea turtles are able swimmers, and the local variety has been found as far as 1500 miles from the Galapagos along the South American coast.

They feed primarily on seaweed, and spend large periods of time underwater, sleeping on shallow sandy bottoms.

They are usually seen by tourists from boats as they raise their heads above water to gulp air before disappearing for another long dive.

Although the numbers seem to be high the Galapagos green turtle, along with all other population of green sea turtle, is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

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Green sea turtles body is brilliantly adapted to life in the ocean. Their shells are lighter and more streamlined than those of their terrestrial counterparts and their front and rear limbs have evolved into flippers making them efficient and graceful swimmers.

The top half of their shell is called the carapace. It feels smooth and is gray, green, brown or black. It's tougher than the under shell, which is called the plastron and is yellowish white.

Males have a larger tail than females, slightly longer, narrower carapaces than females and enlarged curved claws on the front flippers for gripping the female when mating.

They are capable of swimming long distances in a relatively short period of time. Green sea turtles have been known to move through the water as fast as 35 miles per hour.

Sea turtles have an ingenious way to clean their bodies of the salts they accumulate from the seawater in which they live. Just behind each eye is a salt gland.

Their salt glands help the Galapagos green turtle to maintain a healthy water balance by shedding large tears of excess salt.

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Galapagos Green Turtle Nesting

Green sea turtles spend most of their life in the ocean. The males never leave the ocean, but the females come ashore to nest and lay eggs on several of the Galapagos Islands.

A female may mate with several, if not dozens of males, a process which can be very tiring.

Female turtles are often seen hauled upon on the beach just above the surf line, taking a break from male attention.

When the turtle is ready to lay eggs, the female drags herself well above the high tide line, digs a large pit in the sand, and lays about 75 eggs at a time.

These egg-laying trips take place up to eight times during a breeding season, each session separated by a couple of weeks.

The Galapagos green turtle is cold-bloodied. Adult green turtles are known to grow up to one and a half meters long.

Sea turtles spend most of their lives submerged but must breathe air for the oxygen needed to meet the demands of vigorous activity.

With a single exhalation and rapid inhalation, sea turtles can quickly replace the air in their lungs. The lungs are adapted to permit a rapid exchange of oxygen and to prevent gases from being trapped during deep dives.

The Galapagos sea turtles can rest or sleep underwater for several hours at a time but submergence time is much shorter while diving for food or to escape predators.

Breath holding ability is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles drown in shrimp trawls and other fishing gear within a relatively short time.

Because the Galapagos green turtle is difficult to study in the open ocean, scientists are just beginning to learn about their life history.

Today, radio transmitters, attached to nesting turtles, help track the sea creatures on their travels and provide valuable information.

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