Leatherback Sea Turtles Facts
Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea
Conservation status: Vulnerable (Population decreasing)
Clutch size: 110
Mass: 250 – 700 kg (Adult)
Length:1.8 – 2.2 m (Adult)
More About Leatherback Sea Turtles:
Giant leatherback sea turtles are among the world’s largest reptiles and by far the biggest sea turtle species. Adults can weigh between 500 and 2,000 lbs and measure from 4 – 8 feet long. They get to this enormous size by eating large amounts of jellyfish, which their body has evolved to consume.
Leatherbacks differ from other turtle species in many ways but most obviously with their shell, which is a softer and more flexible without the scales typical of other turtles.
Leatherbacks hold lots of sea turtle records including the biggest turtle, deepest dive, biggest eater, and longest traveler. These incredible animals diverged millions of years ago from other sea turtles and have evolved different characteristics from more typical sea turtles like a Green Turtle or Olive Ridley.
Until recently, leatherbacks were considered critically endangered, yet growing numbers in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans have given hope for their survival.
Leatherback Sea Turtles Facts & Tidbits:
- They are one of the world’s largest reptiles.
- The longest leatherback ever found was estimated to be 12 feet long and weigh 2,000 lbs. The average is 4 – 8 feet long, and 500 – 1,000 lbs.
- Due to their flexible shells, these turtles can dive deeper than most whale species, and can dive down as far as 1 kilometer (2/3rds of a mile)!
- Their shell is made covered by a leathery skin and made up of a flexible matrix of bone rather than scutes like other sea turtles.
- Leatherbacks can withstand cold due to their large size and dark shells (which absorbs sunlight). They can be found as far north as Alaska and Nova Scotia, Canada.
- Leatherbacks can eat their weight in jellyfish in just a day!
This species is the most widespread of all sea turtles and is found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. In the Pacific, they can be found as far north as Alaska, and as far south as New Zealand. While in the Atlantic, they reach the Arctic Circle, and the southern tip of Africa – all as they search for jellyfish, mates, and nesting beaches.
IUCN Status: Vulnerable / Population Trend: Decreasing in some areas while increasing in others.
Pacific populations are still considered critically endangered, due primarily to entanglement in fishing gear.
Photo Credit: Neil Ever Osborne