Meet the largest sea turtle in the world – the Leatherback!
Average lifespan: 45 years
Size: Up to 7 feet
Weight: Up to 2,000 pounds
These ancient ocean reptiles have roamed our planet’s oceans since dinosaurs like the T Rex were alive over 100 MILLION years ago! In the past, leatherbacks were abundant in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic, but today faced with a multitude of human threats, their existence is at risk.
A Unique Shell
Their name says it all. Apart from being the biggest sea turtle species alive today, leatherbacks are also the only sea turtles without a hard, bony shell.
A leatherback’s carapace is instead almost rubbery to the touch, and has ridges which make it more hydro-dynamic. This helps these massive sea turtles dive up to 4,200 feet (the deepest of any sea turtle)!
Like their ancient relatives, leatherbacks today are the most widely distributed reptile on Earth! You can find these ocean wanderers across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea!
- Did you know that once they leave their nest and head out to sea, male leatherbacks never return to land again!
- Leatherbacks undertake the longest migrations of any sea turtle, averaging 3,700 miles each way.
Adapted To The Cold
Unlike other sea turtles, leatherbacks have a variety of adaptations to survive in cold ocean temperatures, including:
- Large size
- A thick layer of fat
- The ability to change swimming activity and blood flow
Leatherback sea turtles are currently listed as Vulnerable to extinction, with a decreasing global population.
These animals face a multitude of both natural and anthropogenic threats throughout their lives, where only about one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive to adulthood.
Human threats include residential/commercial development, fishing, marine pollution, and climate change.