A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

California Sea Turtles with Four Costal Scales


Comparison chart for all California Sea Turtles

Back to California Sea Turtle Identification Key

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Green Sea Turtle -
Chelonia mydas
Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata bissa
The Green Sea Turtle and the Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtle both have four costal scales.

One way to tell them apart is to count the pre-frontal scales.
turtle turtle
The Green Sea Turtle has one pair of pre-frontals.

This is the only sea turtle found in California with one pair of pre-frontals.
The Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtle has two pairs of pre-frontals.

Two other species of sea turtles found in California also have two pairs of pre-frontals, but they have more than four costal scales.

Another way to differentiate these two species is to look at the length of the snout.
turtle turtle
The Green Sea Turtle has a more rounded snout.
The Pacific Hawksbill Sea Turtle has an elongated snout that looks somewhat like the bill of a hawk.

A third way to differentiate them is to look at the shell.
turtle turtle
The shell of the adult Green Sea Turtle is plain greenish, olive, or brown.
The Pacific Hawksbill shell has a marbled radiating pattern and the shields overlap like shingles.
Beware that juvenile Green Sea Turtles also have a mottled or radiating pattern on the shell.  

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