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THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIELD GUIDE

Green sea turtle

October 18, 2005|David Lukas

[ CHELONIA MYDAS ]

Although there may be an odd sighting once in a while, sea turtles are not typically associated with California. Restricted to warm tropical waters, the rare green sea turtle that wanders north in summer must retreat south with the coming of winter. Imagine the surprise of scientists when they discovered 50 to 60 of these turtles living in south San Diego Bay in 1976. The turtles have taken up residence near a power plant that dumps 500 million gallons of heated water into the bay each day. Though research suggests they may be year-round residents, they become conspicuous in late October and spend the winter lounging and feeding on eelgrass.

NATURAL HISTORY

The dynamics of this errant population are not completely understood. It is thought that many may be juveniles preparing for the annual trip that adults make to their nesting beaches in southern Mexico.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

This turtle is best identified by the specific arrangement of the scales on its shell because green refers to the color of its subcutaneous fat, not its external appearance; it reaches 5 feet in length and sometimes weighs more than 600 pounds.

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