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Green sea turtle Nickel has powerful front flippers that she uses to travel quickly around her Caribbean Reef habitat.

Green Sea Turtle

Green sea turtles are found in temperate and tropical coastal waters around the world. As adults, they are the only herbivorous sea turtles, foraging on seagrasses and algae. Their diet turns their fat green, hence their name. Green sea turtles are endangered throughout their range. But where protected, many populations are increasing.

Nickel the green sea turtle, her long front fins swept wide, swims in Caribbean Reef at Shedd Aquarium.
Green sea turtle Nickel searches among the coral in her Caribbean Reef habitat.

Still one tie to land

Green turtles can migrate thousands of miles from foraging grounds to nesting beaches. Following chemical cues, a female returns to the same beach where she hatched. She lays about 100 ping-pong ball-sized eggs in a deep nest, covers them and leaves. Hatchlings instinctively head for the sea. While females come ashore to nest every two to three years, the males never return to land. The loss of nesting beaches due to coastal development and rising sea levels is a threat to all seven species of sea turtles.

Nickel the sea turtle, dives in her Caribbean Reef habitat to munch on a stalk of romaine lettuce, held by one of Shedd's volunteer divers.

A conservation ambassador

Nickel, Shedd's rescued green sea turtle, has been the star of the Caribbean Reef habitat since 2003. She came to Shedd after surviving a boat collision that left a deep gash in her shell and affected her buoyancy—but not her ability to navigate her habitat with ease and learn behaviors that help us care for her. Nickel helps raise awareness about the many threats to her species, including the increasing problem of plastic marine debris, which sea turtles can mistake for food or become entangled in.

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