Physical Description

  • Large, heavy sea turtle, with a nearly oval body that is more flattened than that of a Pacific green turtle.
  • Wide, smooth carapace (shell) that is olive or brown in color.
  • Named for their green skin.
  • Their small head is non-retractable.
  • They have a single pair of prefrontal scales (scales in front of their eyes), rather than two pairs, which are found on other turtles.
  • All flippers have one visible claw.
  • Adults can weigh up to 700 pounds and be 5 feet in length.
  • Hatchlings are dark brown or nearly black with a white underbelly and white edges on their flippers.


  • Coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.
  • There is also an Atlantic green turtle on the east coast of North America and off the coast of Europe.


  • Lives in tropical and subtropical waters.


  • Green sea turtles make long migrations from feeding grounds to nesting grounds, normally sandy beaches.
  • Mating occurs every 2-4 years, with wide fluctuations in yearly numbers of nesting females.
  • Females leave the sea to lay their eggs on the beach, often the same beach they were born on.
  • Females will lay 100-200 eggs per nest, cover it with sand, and return to sea.
  • Eggs incubate for 60 days, and then hatch and have to make the journey back to sea.


  • Herbivores, they eat algae and sea grasses.
  • Juvenile green sea turtles will also eat crabs, jellies, and sponges.


  • Baby green sea turtles have many predators. In the short scamper from nest to sea, they can be eaten by gulls, crabs, fishes, dogs, raccoons, and other seabirds. Over 90% of baby sea turtles are eaten by predators.
  • Adults’ main predator is large sharks, especially tiger sharks.

Interesting Facts

  • Green sea turtles can live to be up to 80 years old!
  • They are one of the only marine turtles that leave the water more than just to lay their eggs – they can often be seen climbing onto the sand to sunbathe.
  • Female green sea turtles often lay eggs on the same beach that their mother used and they were born on. They often lay a clutch of 100-200 eggs at a time. 
  • Green sea turtles are endangered, and they need our help to protect them. You can help them by making sure you clean up your trash and fishing gear at the beach, so they do not eat it or get entangled in it! 

Sources: National Geographic; Sea World;

Photo: Michael T. Samale

See endangered green sea turtles in person at Living Coast Discovery Center