Myrtle the Turtle 'in robust condition' at age 95

A green sea turtle, believed to be 95 years young, was given a clean bill of health this week. Myrtle the ancient green sea turtle has been at the New England Aquarium in Boston for more than 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down, despite being at the peak of her life expectancy.

[Related: Endangered sea turtles build hundreds of nests on the Outer Banks.]

Turtles and tortoises are known for their long lifespans. Depending on the species, they can live anywhere 25 to 200 years. In December 2023, a turtle named Jonathan celebrated his 191st birthday and is currently the oldest known turtle. According to Guinness World Recordsthe previous oldest known turtle was a radiated tortoise named Tu'i Malila. British explorer Captain James Cook presented Tu'i Malila to the royal family of Tonga sometime around 1777. Tu'i Malila died in 1965 at the estimated age of 188.

Myrtle swims in the New England Aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank. CREDIT: Danielle Parhizkaran/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Myrtle still has a long way to go to meet Jonathan and Tu'i Malila's standards, so physical exams like these can help vets keep her healthy. To perform this biannual reptile check, veterinarians first had to place Myrtle in an underwater crate and hoist all 200+ pounds of her from her home into the aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank. Once she was safely removed from the aquarium, a team of trained veterinarians, vet technicians and aquarists took blood samples, checked her flippers and made sure her mouth, nose and eyes were all working properly. She was then given an ultrasound, jumped on the scale and was returned to her tank.

All this was done while the aquarium was open to visitors, who assured onlookers that the veterinarians were trained professionals safe from Myrtle's powerful jaws. Her serrated teeth are probably strong enough to do that crush grass and some small hard-shelled organisms.

Animal photo

According to ocean tank manager Mike O'Neill, she is in “strong condition” despite her age. Myrtle is believed to be 95 years old, which would place her just outside the upper limit of the species' lifespan.

“There is every reason to believe that Myrtle will continue to exist for years to come,” O'Neill told it Associated press. “She is iconic. One of the special things we see is parents with their children saying, 'This is Myrtle, she's been here since I was a kid.' She has an impact on several generations, which is very special.”

two divers give a sea turtle a festive squid meal
Divers Katarina Peterson (L) and Jen Makela (R) present Myrtle with a plant-based birthday cake topped with raw squid in honor of her 63rd birthday on March 14, 2003. The vegetarian would enjoy a little calamari every now and then, the researchers said. her supervisors. CREDIT: William B. Plowman/Getty Images.

Since Myrtle first emerged from an aquarium in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1970, he has been visited by approximately 50 million visitors. According to the New England AquariumShe has become quite accustomed to people in that time and has enjoyed having her shell scratched and eats up to six and a half pounds of food a day. She currently shares her space with tank mates Carolina and Retreat. These loggerhead sea turtles are about half their age. The loggerheads have also undergone physical examinations and are also doing well, O'Neill said.

[Related: Safely share the beach with endangered sea turtles this summer.]

The second largest species of sea turtles, the green sea turtles, live in tropical and subtropical oceans around the world. The United States is home base six species of native sea turtles–green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley. They mainly feast on algae and seagrass.

All six species of sea turtles in the US are protected by the Endangered Species Act, as are green sea turtles listed as endangered and declining in population by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends this reducing marine debris, not releasing balloons that often end up polluting the ocean, leaving turtle nests alone and keeping these areas dark at night are small steps to better protect sea turtles.

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