Adult Green Turtles are an olive-green colour, with some having brown, reddish-brown or black highlights. Their shell is high-domed and smooth, with hatchlings having a black shell with white outline.
Of the six marine turtle species found in the Great Barrier Reef, they appear to be the most abundant in number, and have a mostly herbivorous diet.
The Flatback Turtle gets its name from (you guessed it!) a distinct low-domed shell with upturned edges, covered by a thin skin. Adults also have olive-grey coloured heads and flippers, with their hatchlings being grey in colour.
Flatback Turtles will only nest on the continental shelf of Australia, but sometimes venture out to the waters of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to feed.
Why is it called a Loggerhead Turtle? Well, it’s because of its large head!
As they predominantly feed on crustaceans and molluscs (both of which have hard outer shells) it has a strong, thick jaw to crush its food for consumption.
Adult Loggerhead Turtles are brown and often highlighted with light brown, reddish-brown and black on their shells. Hatchlings have a dark brown shell and a light brown under-shell.
With a round, grey/olive-grey shell that is domed at the front and shaped like a heart, it’s hard to deny that the Olive Ridley Turtle is not only the smallest marine turtle species in the Great Barrier Reef… but it is also the cutest!
Its hatchlings are black and have a light brown under-shell, and the species tend to eat a combination of crabs, shellfish, echinoderms (e.g. starfish) and gastropods (e.g. sea snails).
The Hawksbill Turtle is one of the marine turtle species in the Great Barrier Reef that can be found in all oceans where conditions are tidal/sub-tidal and rocky reefs are affluent for adequate feeding.
Eating mostly sponges, the gorgeous Hawksbill has a brown and black patterned shell with a cream-coloured plastron (under-shell), occasionally having black spots. However, they are most easily distinguished from other species by their narrow head and beak-like mouth/”bill”.
Another turtle species found in oceans around the world, the Leatherback Turtle is also the largest living turtle species on Earth.
In fact, though often found living in the Great Barrier Reef, this is likely due to their intention to migrate to the waters of nearby/surrounding countries to breed. This species is actually relatively uncommon in the Reef compared to the other five species.
With soft, leathery skin, a pointed shell and ridges running down it’s back, it is not just the size of this species that is stunning.
The future of the Reef and the life it supports is at risk. Every year, millions of tonnes of fine sediment flow from eroding land onto the Reef, choking fish, seagrass and coral, reducing the Reef’s ability to recover from the impacts of climate change. Exacerbating the problem is the loss of over 50% of our coastal wetlands, which help to filter excess nutrients from water before it enters the Reef lagoon.
Greening Australia, through the Reef Aid program, are addressing both climate change and water quality in Australia – with a bold goal to reforest 10 million hectares across Australia, to sequester 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – drawing down 20% of Australia’s total current carbon Emissions.
To improve water quality, store carbon and provide habitat for species, we are working with local landholders, communities and Traditional Owner groups across the Reef catchments to restore wetlands, revegetate landscapes and rebuild eroding gullies.
For more information and some fun facts on these amazing turtle species, visit: GBRMPHA.