Identifying Turtles

Three species of turtle are commonly found at Julian Rocks,
- the hawksbill turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata,
- the Green turtle - Chelonia mydas and
- the Loggerhead turtle - Caretta caretta.

They can be identified by their heads and shells. The hawksbill has a more pointed beak, the loggerhead has a big head and thick neck. The patterns of scales on the head and face are also distinctive.

Turtles have a shell on their back called the carapace, and one on the underside called the plastron. Each is made up of a number of “plates” called scutes. The small plates around the edge of the carapace are called the marginal scutes, and those along the centre are the vertebral scutes. Along each side are the costal scutes. Loggerheads have 5 costal scutes on each side.Both green and hawksbill turtles have only 4. The Hawksbills have overlapping scutes, whereas greens and loggerheads have scutes which abut each other. Mature males tend to have bigger tails and longer claws than females.


Hawksbill Turtle
Eretmochelys imbricata

Green Turtle
Chelonia mydas

Loggerhead Turtle
Caretta caretta

longer, pointed beak   Big head and thick neck
Carapace - elliptical,
4 pairs of costal scutes, thick, horny and overlapping; various patterns – orange, brown, yellow.
Carapace more rounded and high domed,
4 pairs of costal scutes, olive brown with black or reddish brown highlights, distinct sunray pattern.
Carapace - roughly heart-shaped,
5 pairs of costal scutes.
length to 90cms. length to 120cms length to 110cms.
2 claws per flipper Only 1 claw per flipper. 2 claws per flipper
Chelys is Latin for tortoise,
imbricata means overlapping