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Important Information about the Honu


Did you know the Hawaiian green sea turtle...

honu at Laniakea
  • Is called “honu” in the Hawaiian language.

  • is a reptile and, hence, is ectothermic (cold blooded).

  • is a threatened species and is protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and Hawaii state law.

  • has a shell (or carapace) that is made of many thin layers of keratin (similar to human finger nails) and can grow to 40” long or more. Its body can weight more than 400 lbs.

  • has a life expectancy of between 60 and 70 years.

  • can swim in short bursts up to 20 mph.

  • feeds primarily on algae, seaweed and sea grass (“limu” in Hawaiian) as an adult.

  • does not have teeth, but does have a serrated lower jaw for tearing algae from rocks. It can inflict a serious bite!

  • has excellent underwater vision and can distinguish colors (its favorite is orange). On land they are nearsighted because the shape of their lenses are adapted for seeing underwater. It also has an acute sense of smell.

  • has no external ears but can hear low frequency sounds underwater as a result of vibrations through its skull that are sensed by the inner ear. Hearing on land is poor but low frequency vibrations are sensed through its shell and backbone.

  • gets its name from the greenish color of its internal body fat.

  • breathes air and must surface to do so (every 5-15 minutes when active; every 2 to 4 hours when inactive).

  • is hypo-osmotic, able to drink sea water, excreting excess salt through special salt glands near the eyes.

  • is the only species of sea turtle that basks on the beach to raise its body temperature and avoid predators.

  • is primarily preyed upon by large Tiger Sharks.

  • becomes reproductively mature around age 25-30 years old. Only at that point can males, having much longer and thicker tails, be distinguished from females.

  • will return to nest in the same general area where it was born. In Hawaii, green sea turtles migrate to a coral atoll in the NW Hawaiian Islands called French Frigate Shoals (500 miles one way from Laniakea) every 2-8 (or more) years. Females lay 2 to 7 (or more) clutches of 75-150 eggs every 12-15 days. The incubation period is 48-70 days.


Here at Laniakea Beach...

honu at Laniakea

Turtles have been recorded as basking ashore since 1999. They can be found here year round, feeding on limu and getting warm on the beach. Late morning through early afternoon is the most frequent time turtles haul out onto the beach. Marine scientists believe the honu come here for the abundance of food and the safety of the cove. during the past 2 years, we have been tracking 24 turtles (10 males, 8 females and 6 sub-adults or juveniles) basking at Laniakea. Scientists periodically place satellite tags and time-depth recorders on the shells of the turtles. These devices provide insight into the movements, exposure to potential hazards at sea, and activity while under the water of the honu as they travel around in the ocean. One of our honu has been recorded as diving to a depth of 570 feet (173.7 meters).

all the honu have been given Hawaiian names; some also have English nicknames.

Show turtles aloha...

  • State and Federal laws prohibit harassment of sea turtles.

  • Observe sea turtles from a distance.

  • Do not touch, feed, harass or tease sea turtles.
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