Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Chelonia mydas


Sea turtles are unable to pull their heads or appendages into their shells.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Baltimore - Maryland:
Blacktip Reef!

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Green Sea Turtle

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.

Latest News

July 2, 2013
Today marked another important milestone for our Aquarium family as we introduced the first animal, our 500-pound green sea turtle Calypso, into our Blacktip Reef exhibit!
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Green Sea Turtle Facts


Juvenile green sea turtles are carnivorous, feeding on jellies and other invertebrates. As adults, however, greens are the only herbivorous (vegetarian) species of sea turtle, feeding on sea grasses and algae.

At the Aquarium, our green sea turtle is fed romaine lettuce, gel food made from algae and a balanced mixture of essential vitamins and minerals.


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


Green sea turtles are found in all tropical and subtropical seas along the coasts of continents and islands.

Population Status

Conservation alert! Worldwide, green sea turtle population declines are largely due to the harvest of both the turtles and their eggs.

In the United States, this species is listed as threatened or endangered, depending on the population.

Despite federal and state protection, large numbers are killed by fisheries targeting other species (bycatch); these turtles also die following entanglement in discarded fishing gear or ingestion of marine debris, especially plastics.

In many parts of their range, nesting is hindered or disrupted by coastal development and other human 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 die before they reach the water.

In recent years, many populations, including those in Florida and Hawaii, have been seriously affected by fibropapilloma. Turtles with this disease develop fleshy tumors on the skin and internal organs that can eventually impair vision, feeding, breathing and other vital functions.

Everyone can help with sea turtle conservation efforts. Learn How


Raccoons, foxes, dogs, seabirds and ghost crabs prey upon turtle eggs. Young sea turtles are eaten by seabirds, crabs and carnivorous fish. Adults may be eaten by tiger sharks.

Humans, however, are the greatest threat to sea turtles. People harvest adults and eggs, disturb nesting beaches, pollute and fish in ways that are harmful to turtles.

Calypso's Story

The Aquarium’s green sea turtle was born, we estimate, in 1998. In 2000, this sea turtle was stranded in Long Island Sound and rescued by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Weighing just 6 pounds, the small turtle was cold stunned and had an infected left front flipper. The flipper was untreatable and was amputated. Almost two years later, and several pounds heavier, the turtle was donated to the National Aquarium. At the time, it was believed that the sea turtle could not be returned to the wild. After three months in quarantine, the turtle, nicknamed Calypso, was moved to the Wings in the Water exhibit (now Blacktip Reef). A decade later, Calypso weighs an impressive 500 pounds.

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Holly Bourbon
Curator of Large-Fish Exhibits/Diving Safety Officer

pressroom striped fish

As the curator of large-fish exhibits, Holly's day-to-day responsibilities include managing our staff of aquarists and making sure that all of the animals under our care are doing well! Learn More

A Note From the Caretaker

When visiting the Aquarium, you'll notice that our green sea turtle is missing a front flipper. Our turtle was rescued by the Riverhead Marine Foundation off Long Island, New York. It was cold-stunned, and its left front flipper was severely infected.

Baltimore, MD


The National Aquarium offers a three-hour showcase of more than 17,000 animals, including birds, frogs, sharks, dolphins and jellies.

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