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Natural UAE


Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Family Cheloniidae


Description: A green turtle carapace (upper shell) can measure up to 1.2 m in length and an adult of this size may weigh in excess of 200 kgs. The smooth, rounded carapace has four pairs of large plates (costal scutes) on either side and is generally dark brown in colour with lighter patches, although the colour can vary considerably. The head is relatively small, the beak blunt and rounded. A single pair of plates stretch from the nostrils to the forehead between the eyes. Green turtle nests are distinctly circular and may be over a metre deep. The tracks left by a nesting green turtle are easily recognisable as the fore flippers are swept backwards together pulling the turtle along the beach, the right flipper leaving a distinct linear groove in the sand exactly opposite the left flipper, creating a series of parallel, horizontal tracks either side of the body.

Habitat: Feeding grounds are in shallow water over seagrass and algal beds. Nesting beaches tend to consist of fine deep sand in the UAE and include offshore islands and mainland sites.

Range: Green turtles are known to migrate great distances (several thousands of kilometres in some cases) and may be seen almost anywhere in UAE waters. However, largest numbers occur on feeding grounds to the west of Abu Dhabi.

Comments: Green turtles, locally known as 'Hamas' or 'Shiree', nest during summer months and feed at all times of year in the UAE. Many die each year in fishing nets and their bones and shells frequently wash ashore.

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