The named is derived from its unique shell which is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates that make it appear "leathery."
The head has a deeply notched upper jaw with two cusps, (points). The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell. Its carapace or shell is large, elongated and flexible with seven distinct ridges running its entire length. Composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates, the shell does not have scales, except in hatchlings. Significantly, the all important flippers have no claws. The shell is dark grey or black with white or pale spots, while the plastron or belly is whitish to black and marked by five ridges. When born the hatchlings have distinctive white blotches on their backs.
A fully grown Leatherback Turtle can be four to six feet in length although the largest recorded was almost ten feet from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail, this particular specimen weighed over two thousand pounds.
Leatherbacks have delicate, scissor-like jaws, which would be damaged by anything other than a diet of soft food. They feed almost exclusively on jellyfish and it is remarkable that this large, active creature can survive on such a diet, since jellyfish are composed mostly of water and are a poor source of nutrients.
Their habitat is primarily throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern tip of Africa, recent satellite tracking research indicates that leatherbacks feed in areas just offshore and are known to be active in water below forty degrees Fahrenheit - the only reptile known to remain active at such a low temperature.
They nest between six and nine times per season, with an average of ten days between nesting's. Each turtle will lay an average of eighty fertilized eggs, each egg white in colour and the size of a ping pong ball a further thirty smaller unfertilized eggs may also be laid in each nest. The eggs incubate for approximately sixty five days. Unlike other species of sea turtles, leatherback females may change nesting beaches, though they tend to stay in the same region.
The Leatherback is the most widely distributed of all sea turtles and is found worldwide with the largest north and south range of all the sea turtle species. With its streamlined body shape and the powerful front flippers, a leatherback can swim thousands of miles over Open Ocean and against fast currents.
|The Green Sea Turtle: Chelonia Mydas||Turtle Data|
|The Olive Ridley||Turtle Conservation|
|Saving Turtles||Hawksbill Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata|
|The Loggerhead Turtle: Caretta caretta||Turtle Hatchery|