BREEDING ENDEMIC SPECIES
Conservation Status: Endangered
Scientific Name: Chelonia Mydas
The Galapagos Green Sea Turtle is the only turtle species to breed and nest at Galapagos, and is a common sighting in shallow waters across the archipelago. Snorkellers can often get a close view of these gentle marine giants, and a great opportunity for amazing underwater photos as they swim slowly past.
Their name comes from the greenish color of their flesh, a result of an algae diet. Green Sea Turtles can be found right across the Pacific Ocean, but the Galapagos Islands is their principal breeding ground. They are large creatures, growing up to one and a half metres in length, and weighing an average of 200 kilograms. The principal difference from other marine turtles is their serrated lower jaw, and a single pair of scales that cover their eyes.
Where to See Them: in shallow waters right across the Galapagos Islands.
When to See Them: They can be spotted all year round, with nesting season from December to March, and hatchlings most common in May.
The Galapagos Green Sea Turtle is a common sighting during Galapagos cruises, either underwater while snorkelling, or swimming on the surface in shallow waters. Two of the largest nesting sites that tours visit can be found at Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz island) and Punta Cormorant (Floreana island); although you would need to be lucky to see a female laying eggs, or baby turtles hatching, you will almost certainly be able to witness the tell-tale flipper-path left in the sand leading up to nesting holes on higher ground.
Galapagos Sea Turtles have made some interesting evolutionary adaptations: They have lighter & more streamlined shells than Land Tortoises, and their feet evolved into efficient flippers capable of swimming as fast as 35 miles per hour. They do, however, unfortunately find themselves on the Endangered species list, their nest sites being easily disturbed by goats, cats or dogs in search of an easy meal. For this reason the Galapagos National Park closely monitors nesting sites, and will flag off active nests so visitors know to keep their distance.
Mating occurs at sea during the warmer months at the start of the year. Only the females then come to land to lay their eggs, crawling up the beach past the high tide mark and digging a nest with their flippers – this is done at night to avoid predation. Between 50 & 200 eggs are laid, and often fake nests are dug alongside to confuse potential predators, before the female returns to the ocean, her job done. Incubation takes from 45-70 days, and gender of the hatchlings depends on the temperature of the eggs – it’s easy to remember as Hot Chicks (females at warmer temperatures) or Cool Dudes (males at lower temperatures).
Small hatchlings emerge at night, ready to run for survival to the ocean, following the reflection of the moonlight. Only few make it, as hungry Frigate Birds, Gulls, Hawks, crabs and other predators lie in their path, and even in the ocean sharks are happy to feast on them. A single clutch of eggs will often emerge at the same time, giving individuals a better chance of survival. For the lucky few who do make it successfully will face a daily battle in the oceans to reach maturity at 25+ years old, ready to return and mate themselves.
Adults turtles are vegetarians, feeding on sea grass and mangrove leaves, while juveniles will eat pretty much anything from crustaceans to seaweed, jellyfish, and fish eggs. Tragically they often confuse plastic waste in the sea for jellyfish, ingesting plastic trash with often tragic consequences.
If you enjoyed this blog, then check out more information about other Galapagos Animals Species.
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