Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rare Hybrid Sea Turtle Discovered On Florida Space Coast


Green Sea Turtle / Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hybrid

Researchers suspect that they have discovered a rare hybrid sea turtle as a result of inter-species mating between a green sea turtle and a loggerhead sea turtle. Credit:  University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group via Facebook.


PORT CANAVERAL, Florida - Researchers with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group suspect that they have discovered a rare hybrid sea turtle as a result of inter-species mating between a green sea turtle and a loggerhead sea turtle.


The turtle was recently captured at the U.S. Navy's Trident Submarine Turning Basin located on the north side of Port Canaveral, Florida. According to the Marine Turtle Research Group, the turtle's head, flippers, and skin coloration all are characteristic of a green sea turtle. But its shell has a reddish brown coloration, jagged edges, and a ridge down the center that are characteristic of a loggerhead sea turtle. Researchers are now awaiting the results of genetic tests to confirm whether or not the turtle is indeed a hybrid.

Although hybrid sea turtles are rare, they have been discovered before. In 2008, another green/loggerhead hybrid sea turtle was discovered in North Carolina. Genetic tests confirmed that the turtle was the offspring of a male green sea turtle and a female loggerhead sea turtle. Also, inter-species mating between loggerhead sea turtles and hawksbill and green sea turtles have been observed in the wild.

Loggerheads have a reddish-brown shell and are named for their large heads. Adults can weigh between 200 and 350 pounds and can reach 3 feet in length.  The green turtle's name derives not from the color of its shell (olive-brown with dark streaks and spots) but from the greenish color of its body fat. On average, these sea turtles weigh 300 pounds and have a shell length of 3.3 feet.

In the United States, 90 percent of all loggerhead nesting occurs in Florida with nearly half of those nests located in Brevard County. In 2014, there were 23,457 loggerhead nests counted by wildlife official along Florida's Space Coast.

The green sea turtle population has been on a exponential rebound in recent years. In 1989, biologists documented only 464 green turtle nests on index beaches. In 2011, the index count was 10,701; in 2013, it was 25,553 and in 2015 the number of green turtle nests on index beaches reached a new record of 27,975.

Green Sea Turtle / Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hybrid
This turtle's head, flippers, and skin coloration all are characteristic of a green sea turtle. But its shell has a reddish brown coloration, jagged edges, and a ridge down the center that are characteristic of a loggerhead sea turtle. Credit:  University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Group via Facebook.

Green turtle and loggerhead nesting areas overlap throughout Florida, including in Brevard County on Florida's Space Coast. Their nesting seasons also overlap in Florida, with the loggerhead nesting season running from April through September and the green turtle nesting season spanning from June through late September.

Green Sea Turtle Nesting Florida Mapp
Map credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Florida Map
Map credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

More articles about Sea Turtles.