June 21st, 2024

Ancient sea turtle housed at Boston aquarium for more than 50 years passes another physical

By Patrick Whittle And Rodrique Ngowi, The Associated Press on April 9, 2024.

FILE - Myrtle, a green sea turtle estimated to be almost 90 years old, swims in the main tank at the New England Aquarium, April 22, 2016, in Boston. Veterinarians performed Myrtle’s check up Tuesday, April 9, 2024, after the 500-pound reptile was hoisted from the aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank in an enormous crate on a chain. Myrtle is thought to be as many as 95 years old, which would place her just beyond the upper boundaries of the species' longevity, but aquarium staff said the big turtle is in robust condition despite her advance age. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

BOSTON (AP) – Apparently it’s pretty easy being green after all.

That was the takeaway from Tuesday’s physical examination of Myrtle, an ancient green sea turtle that has delighted visitors to the New England Aquarium in Boston for more than 50 years.

Veterinarians performed Myrtle’s checkup after the 500-pound reptile was hoisted from the aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank in an enormous crate on a chain.

Myrtle is thought to be up to 95 years old, which would place her just beyond the upper boundaries of the species’ longevity. But the big turtle is “in robust condition” despite her advance age, said Mike O’Neill, manager of the ocean tank.

There’s every reason to believe Myrtle will stick around for years to come, O’Neill said.

“She is iconic,” O’Neill said. “One of the really special things we see is parents with their kids who say, “˜This is Myrtle, she has been here since when I was a kid.’ She has this multigenerational impact which is really special.”

Giving the massive sea turtle a physical exam is no small feat, and happens about twice per year. First, divers shepherd Myrtle into the underwater crate. Next, a team of veterinarians, vet techs and aquarists work together to draw blood from Myrtle, check her flippers for range of motion and make sure her eyes, mouth and nose are in working order.

She then receives an ultrasound, her weight is taken and she returns to the ocean tank, O’Neill said. Myrtle was back in the ocean tank by late morning on Tuesday.

Myrtle has been visited by some 50 million people over the decades and has gotten used to humans in that time. The aquarium’s website boasts that Myrtle, who arrived from another aquarium in 1970, “loves having her shell scratched.”

Green sea turtles are the second-largest species of sea turtle, and they live in tropical and subtropical oceans around the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as endangered and decreasing in population.

Myrtle shares space with a pair of loggerhead sea turtles named Carolina and Retread who are about half her age and size. The aquatic roommates also received physicals on Tuesday and are “also both doing great,” O’Neill said.

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