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Savannah Schwager's Sea Turtle Report
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Green Sea Turtles: An Endangered Species By: Savannah Schwager
Green sea turtles are absolutely one of the most unique animals that we have here on Earth.  The Green sea turtle has such a specific type of lifestyle and eating habits that it follows.  They also not only have an interesting habitat, but also a distinct type of structure that distinguishes them from other common land turtles.  A Green sea turtle is also an animal with a very different, specific behavioral pattern than that of many other animals.  The Green sea turtle is a very interesting creature of the sea indeed.

Like many types of animals, Green sea turtles have a very specific type of scientific classification which they derive from.  Their Kingdom is Animalia, their Phylum is Chordata, and the Class they are included in is Reptilia, which means they have scaly skin, breathe air with lungs, and have a three-chambered heart.  The Order Green sea turtles are in is the Testudines, their Suborder is the Cryptodira, and the Family a Green sea turtle is in is the Cheloniidae, which means they have a shell that is "covered with scutes" (Anonymous 2011a, 1)Sea turtles in general have many different Genera and Species, which include their scientific name (Kear and Lee 2005, 1).  A Loggerhead sea turtle's scientific name is Caretta caretta (Mrovosky and Provancha 1989, 1), the Olive Ridley sea turtle's scientific name is Lepidochelys Olivacea (Pandav et. al. 1988, 2), Leatherback sea turtle's scientific name is Dermochelys coriacea (James et. al. 2005, 2)There are many more specific types of sea turtles as well, such as the Hawksbill sea turtle, whose scientific name is Eretmochelys imbricata (Pandav et. al. 1988, 3), and finally, the Green sea turtle, whose scientific name is Chelonia mydas (Pandav et. al. 1988, 4). The Green sea turtle was named for "the green color of the fat under it's shell" (Anonymous 2011b, 1).  From some articles, it is said that the sea turtle is a descendant from Bouliachelys suteri, a "large-bodied basal protostegid from the Early Cretaceous" (Kear and Lee 2005, 3).  Some scientists say that the sea turtles have been around for more than two hundred million years ( Schweitzer 1997, 2)!  That means they also lived when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth!

Green sea turtles are located on many different places on Earth.  They can be found in the United States along the coastline in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida (Mrovosky 1988, 1), and also along Hawaii's coast and in the Caribbean (Anonymous 2011c, 2).  They are also found right along Canada's coastline (James et. al. 2005, 3). The Green sea turtle can also be found in other countries, such as India (Pandav et. al. 1988, 1), Mexico (Pincetich 2011, 1), and Australia (Kear and Lee 2005, 3).  The habitat which a green sea turtle prefers most is the ocean, hence the name 'sea' turtle. Also, a green sea turtle's favorite places in the ocean include the sea-grass beds and the bottom of the ocean floor, close to the coast. They love the sea-grass beds because of the amount of algae they contain, which means the sea turtles practically never run out of food (Anonymous 2011d, 1)!  Green sea turtles also prefer to be at the bottom of the ocean floor nearest the coastline of a continent because it offers protection from any 'coastal erosion' and it's easier for the Green sea turtles to swim with the smooth current (Anonymous 2011d, 2) .  Another popular place Green sea turtles will live is the coral reefs (Anonymous 2011c, 4). 
The Green sea turtle's body shape is that of any other common land turtle, with the exception of its long legs, it's neck, and its scales around it's eyes.  A Green sea turtle has four huge, long legs that are similar to that of a dolphin's fin, except that they are much longer and skinnier than a dolphin's fin.  These long, skinny legs allow the Green sea turtle to swim fast and easy while in the ocean, but also make it difficult for the turtles when they have to crawl up on the beaches to lay their eggs.  The Green sea turtle's neck is also much longer and skinnier than that of an ordinary land turtle's neck.  A scientist can easily recognize a Green sea turtle by the amount of scales it has around its eyes.  Any regular Green sea turtle will have a single pair of 'prefrontal' scales, where as other types of sea turtles will have two pairs (Anonymous 2011b, 5).  Green sea turtle's can also grow to be about two and a half feet wide and can weigh as much as 350 pounds (Anonymous 2011c, 1)!  That is about the weight of an average offensive or defensive lineman on a professional football team!  According to scientists, the biggest Green sea turtle, on record, was five feet in length and was weighed to be 871 pounds (Anonymous 2011b, 4)!  That is more than four average American males put together!  From their enormous size, you can see that the Green sea turtles are not creatures you would ever want to mess with.
The Green sea turtle's diet includes many specific types of sea creatures and ocean plants.  When they are first born, Green sea turtles will only eat meat.  However, as they begin to mature, the Green sea turtle will eat less and less meat and gradually become an herbivore and eat only plants (Anonymous 2011c, 3).  For example, the most common foods that Green sea turtles will eat when they are young are anchovies, squid, and live crabs (Hochshield et. al. 2004, 1).  Then when a sea turtle is an adult, it lives by the coral reefs and will mainly only eat algae or other common ocean floor plants (Anonymous 2011c, 4).  Green sea turtles can also live for a very long time, longer than humans in fact (Crouse et. al. 1997, 1). 

The way a Green sea turtle reproduces is actually very interesting.  First of all, Green sea turtles cannot actually reproduce until they are at least twenty five years old.  But when they are able to, male and female Green sea turtles will migrate more than a thousand miles across the ocean to one specific spot to find a mate and reproduce.  However, males migrate each year while females only migrate every two to four years, so the male Green sea turtles have to wait for their 'lady' to show up (Anonymous 2011c, 5).  Afterwards, the female sea turtles will the come ashore on the coast to lay their eggs on the beach (Pandav et. al. 1988, 6).  Female Green sea turtles will lay an average of about 115 eggs, which will not actually hatch for another sixty days.  Green sea turtles will actually mate three to five times each mating season (Anonymous 2011b, 3).  That means a female Green sea turtle could lay as many as 575 eggs during only one mating season!  According to some articles, "the sea turtles migratory cycle includes movement between temperature and tropical waters" (James et. al. 2005, 1).  This migratory cycle keeps the Green sea turtle's body temperature at a constant rate and helps it move with the current instead of against it.  You might call a Green sea turtle very laid back if you look at its cycle and movement, as many people do.

Green sea turtles have an incredible ability to dive underwater for very long periods of time.  They also will dive for a longer time at certain points in each day, for example, at dawn is when a Green sea turtle will dive for the longest period of time (Eckert et. al. 1989, 1).  This unique adaptation also shows that Green sea turtles can hold their breath for an incredibly long time, which shows how great of a hunter they are since they have a long time to catch their prey.

Although the Green sea turtle is a unique animal, its survival status is not great at all.  Many studies on these turtles have shown that the Green sea turtle is, in fact, on the endangered species list and is also a threatened animal (Pandav et. al. 1988, 1) because of the harsh predators that prey on Green sea turtles each year.  Also, another reason the Green sea turtle is endangered is because of our carelessness as humans.  These Green sea turtles are lately being caught in fishing nets and are unable to breathe and they can eventually drown (Pandav et. al. 1988, 5).  Humans have also been eliminating the Green sea turtle's food supply by catching the shrimp they eat with nets and are increasing the death rate of Green sea turtles everywhere (Anonymous 2011b, 2).  All of us need to be aware of how we, as humans, are impacting the Green sea turtle's chance of survival.  If we do not change our habits, or do not think about what we are doing, we could end up destroying an incredible species made by mother nature. 

There have been many different types of research done on the Green sea turtle quite recently.  For example, some scientists have currently been studying the movement of sea turtle's and their migratory cycle. These studies have suggested that the Green sea turtle, as stated earlier, moves between tropical waters and also moves according to where they will mate and lay their eggs on the beach (James et. al. 2005, 1).  Many types of current research has been done on Green sea turtles and many believe that there will always be new studies to be done on this unique species.    

There are many different types of legends and interesting stories on the Green sea turtles.  One of my favorite legends is how a sea turtle, named Kauila, is able to "change herself into a little girl and keep an eye on the kids playing on beach so they would be safe from harm".  According to the legend "she is now known as the 'mythical mother' of all the existing Green sea turtles in Hawaiian culture".  Another interesting story about the Green sea turtle is that, to the Chinese, the Green sea turtle represents a symbol of wisdom and intelligence.  These Green sea turtles are also thought highly of by the Hawaiians since it's said that, "sea turtles were the guides for the first voyagers to Hawaii" (Schweitzer 1997, 1).  As you can see, there is much more interesting information on the Green sea turtle than just its breathtaking looks. 

I actually have always had a very special connection to Green sea turtles.  What many people do not know is that I am actually an eighth Hawaiian and, when I was little, I used to live in Hawaii on the North Shore.  I still remember that each year my mom would take my brother and I down to the beaches where we would watch the Green sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs and watch as the baby Green sea turtles would hatch and make their small journey to the sea.  I visit Hawaii every other year to see my grandparents, but I also come back to experience the amazing sight of the Green sea turtles and watch them come ashore.  They have also always been my favorite sea creature since I was little because of their interesting way of life and just the way they fascinated me as a child.  I have always been mesmerized by, what I thought to be, their natural beauty and just what an amazing animal they have always been.

Although there are many interesting creatures here on Earth, it's no question that the Green sea turtle is at the top of my list.  I know for a fact that many people have fallen in love with the Green sea turtle just as I have.  With their distinct way of life, their unique habitat, and just their natural beauty, they certainly make up one of the most fascinating  animals on Earth. 
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