Green Sea Turtle

(Chelonia mydas)

  • Animal Type


  • Exhibits

    Not currently on exhibit.

  • Range

    Atlantic Ocean

    Indian Ocean

    Pacific Ocean


The green sea turtle gets its name not from the color of its shell (which is typically brown, gray, black and yellow) but from the greenish shade of its fat.

A serrated beak helps these herbivores tear through vegetation. Their shells, which are lighter and more hydrodynamic than those of terrestrial turtles, allow them to glide easily through the water, while flippers enable them to swim long distances.

Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, but females return to the same beaches they were born on, once every two years or so, to lay eggs.

Support Sea Turtle Conservation

The need for organizations that rescue and rehabilitate federally protected, endangered sea turtles continues to grow—but little to no direct federal support currently exists for this crucial conservation work. Sign the pledge to support stronger federal funding for sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation.

Meet Kai

The National Aquarium’s resident green sea turtle, Kai, arrived at the Animal Care and Rescue Center in October 2020 for long-term care and rehabilitation.

Quick Facts

Learn more about the green sea turtle! Did you know that sea turtles are unable to pull their heads or appendages into their shells?

Green sea turtles are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, along the coasts of continents and islands. They are known to nest in more than 80 countries.

As juveniles, green sea turtles are carnivorous, feeding on jellies and other invertebrates. As adults they are strictly herbivores, feeding on sea grasses, algae and other vegetation.

With a shell length of 3.5 feet and weighing upward of 400 pounds, green sea turtles are second in size only to the behemoth leatherback sea turtle.

Globally, green sea turtle populations are in decline. In the U.S., certain populations are threatened or endangered. Many are killed unintentionally as bycatch or die following entanglement in discarded fishing gear or after ingesting marine debris, especially plastics.

In parts of their range, nesting is hindered by coastal development and other activities. After hatching at night, baby sea turtles find their way to the ocean by following the brightest horizon. Confused, many head toward the artificial lights of houses, hotels or other structures and never reach the water.

Some populations suffer from fibropapilloma. Turtles with this disease develop fleshy tumors on the skin and internal organs that can impair vision, feeding, breathing and other vital functions.

Raccoons, foxes, dogs, seabirds and ghost crabs prey upon turtle eggs. Juveniles are eaten by seabirds, crabs and carnivorous fish. Adults may be eaten by tiger sharks. Humans, however, pose the greatest threat due to harmful fishing practices, nesting beach destruction, pollution and turtle harvesting.

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