Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
Category: Sea Turtles
What Does a Leatherback Sea Turtle Look Like?
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest reptile on Earth. Adult turtles can grow to 2 meters long and weigh up to 900 kilograms. Interestingly, leatherback sea turtles do not have a hard shell like other turtles. Instead, they have leathery skin that covers a series of bony plates. Very large front flippers help them swim faster and migrate farther than any other sea turtle.
Where Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Live, Breed, and Eat?
Leatherbacks live in a wide variety of places in the ocean. In fact, they are the most far-ranging of the sea turtles. Leatherbacks swim from tropical areas, where they nest, all the way to cooler temperate seas. When in the open ocean, they feed on jellyfish and other floating organisms. When they are feeding along the coast, leatherbacks eat crustaceans like shrimp, mollusks like clams and mussels, and other high protein foods. Female leatherbacks return to coastal beaches to build their nests and lay eggs every 2-3 years. They lay about 100 eggs in each nest and build a new nest about every 10 days. After about 65 days, the hatchling leatherbacks crawl out of their nest and find their way to the ocean.
Leatherbacks are an endangered species. Scientists estimate that there are just over 35,000 nesting females worldwide. Males do not come to shore, making it difficult to estimate the male population.
What Are Some Threats to the Leatherback Sea Turtle?
Unfortunately, one of the biggest threats to leatherback sea turtles is commercial fishing in the coastal areas. Turtles can become caught in gillnets, trawls, traps, and other gear used by people who are fishing.
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