By Stacey Venzel
Turtles do not have chubby cheeks like chipmunks, squirrels or hamsters to store food for later. Unlike their bird cousins, they do not bury food in secret spots, either.
While turtles are not tucking away whole food for future use, their bodies are capable of storing food internally as energy through fat. Green sea turtles also owe their namesake to fat.
FAT AS ENERGY
When turtles store fat, they are not looking to become obese individuals that tip the weighing scale. Stored fat is actually potential energy that a turtle can tap into during a food shortage or period of high energy activity, such as egg production. The large, nutrient-rich yolk of a turtle egg is made up of a lot of fat.
GREEN FAT IN GREEN TURTLES
It is a common misconception that green sea turtles are so named for their exterior green coloration. Many of the turtles actually have more of a brown exterior than green. In reality, the name for these turtles dates back to their “turtle soup” days when they were hunted for their meat. Due to the adult herbivorous green algae diet, a green sea turtle’s fat is actually green!
Karen Eckert, David Gulko, Sea Turtles: An Ecological Guide (Honolulu, Mutual Publishing, 2004), 25, 30, 99.
Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene, Turtle: The Animal Answer Guide (Baltimore, The John Hopkins University Press, 2009), 80.