Green sea turtle

Chelonia mydas

About the object

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For a long time, this specimen was part of the so-called South American fauna group, which the museum presented to its visitors in 1911. Fauna groups embodied a new museum-based mode of communication. They presented geographical regions with a focus on fauna, above all showing those species characteristic of exotic as well as more local biomes. Museum visitors were fascinated by fauna groups because they conveyed a particular sense of “naturalness”. Animal as well as plant species were densely packed within a very small space in a wholly unnatural way, yet this lent the appearance of a cohesive co-existence to the exhibit. It conveyed the sense of a network and, to a certain extent, a nexus of biodiversity, despite or perhaps because the majority of visitors could not have ever encountered such a wealth of different species before. This presentation encouraged reflection about contact with nature and our impact on nature. This forms the basis of the principle still valid today, namely that we can only be mindful of and protect the things we are familiar with. The vivid, all-encompassing mode of presentation was extremely popular with the general public. The oval to heart-shaped carapace of a green sea turtle and can reach up 140 cm long, with the females tending to be larger than the males. Green sea turtles lead solitary lives in tropical and subtropical oceans. Only the female turtles come onto the shore, predominantly to lay their eggs, indeed, always returning to the same beach on which they were born. Each female lays numerous clutches with up to one hundred tennis-ball-sized eggs in each nest buried in the sand. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the eggs; at 28?°C the animals are male and at 32?°C female, which hatch after two to three months and crawl independently into the ocean. The juveniles are carnivorous and feed on, for example, squid, fish eggs and sponges. Adult animals are herbivores with a preference for seagrass. Hunting for their eggs and meat has severely decimated green sea turtle populations. This is reflected in the German synonym Suppenschildkröte (“soup turtle”). They have been subject to strict protection since 1977. Nevertheless, their meat continues to be regarded as a delicacy. Other than from hunting, their habitat is threatened by pollution and displacement, such as real estate development on their nesting beaches. The current global rise in temperatures presents a further problem, as only females hatch, resulting in an extreme imbalance in the sexual distribution among turtle populations. Green sea turtles are listed in Appendix I of the CITES convention on International Trade in Endangered species, in Appendix A of the EU Statute (EU) 2019/2117, in Appendix II der FFH Guidelines EG 2013/17 as a prioritised species and in Appendix IV as strictly, that is to say, particularly protected species under the statues of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG).

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