Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts
- Perhaps most notably, the truly magnificent Leatherback Sea Turtle is a legitimate giant of its kind. That’s because this fabulous animal still remains the largest of all known living turtles.
- Furthermore, this remarkable creature also constitutes the fourth heaviest of all living reptiles. Only three of the modern crocodilians surpass it in terms of sheer weight. That’s quite an accomplishment.
- It further distinguishes itself from all other sea turtles in another manner, as well. This holds true because the amazing reptile remains the only known species of its kind to not possess a bony shell.
- Sadly, however, the Leatherback Sea Turtle now finds itself facing threats to its existence. As a result, the IUCN now lists it as Vulnerable. The main threats include chemical and plastic pollution, and boat strikes.
- Finally, the estimated number of nesting females has plunged dramatically since 1980. At that time, these number about 115,000. But currently, that number has dropped to fewer than 43,000.
Leatherback Sea Turtle Physical Description
First of all, the mature Leatherback Sea Turtle represents a truly impressive sight to see. That’s because individuals reach a total length of as much as 7.2 ft (2.2 m). Also, its weight often reaches as much as 1,540 lb (700 kg).
In addition, this breathtaking animal has the longest front flippers of any turtle. These average a length of 8.9 ft (2.7 m). Further, that makes them the longest both in sheer length and relative to body size.
In coloring, it also displays a dual pattern to its appearance. Its upper carapace typically shows a combination of black and dark gray. Yet, the underside generally has a significantly lighter color scheme.
However, it is the outer covering that separates it from all others. That’s due to an amazing divergence of evolution. Instead of a bony shell, it has a covering of extremely thick, tough leathery skin to protect it.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Testudines
- Family: Dermochelyidae
- Genus: Dermochelys
- Species: D. coriacea
Leatherback Sea Turtle Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Firstly, it must be noted that the marvelous Leatherback Sea Turtle has an almost global range. The majority of its population occurs in the tropical and subtropical oceans. However, its range extends from the Arctic Circle to Cape Agulhas, in Africa.
Further, its numbers are mainly concentrated in three primary populations. In addition, each of these remains slightly genetically distinct from the others. These occurs in the Atlantic, western Pacific, and eastern Pacific oceans.
Each of these do share many of the same traits, however. Firstly, all prefer to inhabit the open ocean. But, all tend to follow their prey as it moves during the day. This often results in it moving from deep water during the day to shallower regions at night.
In addition, juveniles prey on various small species for their food. But adults feed almost exclusively on various types of jellyfish. Mature adults, though, has few natural predators. The few include orcas and large sharks.
Yet, this marvelous species is perhaps best known for its nesting practices. Although most of its kind return to the exact beach of their birth, it remains less selective. For it, any beach in the same region seems to serve perfectly.