The Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

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Leatherbacks can be found in the temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. They have the widest global distribution and locations of most any reptile species. Adult leatherbacks travel as north as Canada and south as New Zealand. Leatherbacks are able to maintain a warm body temp in colder waters, due to adaptions such as their body size, swimming activity, and thick layer of fat. They can strive in waters cold as 40 degrees. They are the only living organism in the class Dermochelys. (Henry, 2014)
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  • Adult leatherbacks can reach to 2,000 pounds,
  • Average weight of a hatchling is 1.5-2 ounces.
  • Adult average length is 6.5 feet
  • Hatchling length is 2-3 inches
  • Primarily black/grey shell with white blotchy coloring
  • Lack a bony shell
  • Covered by skin and oily, leathery flesh
  • Carapace has 7 longitudinal ridges and tapers to a blunt point]
  • Sensitive, scissor like jaw
  • Predicted life span is 40-45 years


Male leatherbacks never leave the water once entering it, females on the other hand lay eggs on the shore. A male will use head, body, or flipper movements when approaching a prospective female. Females mate every 2 to 3 years, although leatherbacks can mate annually. Fertilization is internal and multiple males will typically mate with one female. Females lay clutches of eggs several times during a nesting season, typically at 8-12 intervals. The average clutch side is 110, which 85% is viable. Egs incubate for about 65 days. (Javech, 2015)

Leatherback are carnivorous. Their typical diet is soft bodied animals like jellyfish and salps.


These turtles are on the U.S. endangered species list. Leatherback turtles face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment. The greatest causes of decline and the continuing primary threats to leatherbacks worldwide are long-term harvest and incidental capture in fishing gear. Harvest of eggs and adults occurs on nesting beaches while juveniles and adults are harvested on feeding grounds. Incidental capture primarily occurs in gill nets, but also in trawls, traps and pots, longlines, and dredges.Together these threats are serious ongoing sources of mortality that adversely affect the

species' recovery. (Evans, 2004)

Works Cited

Henry L., "Leatherback Sea Turtles." WWF, Retrieved from

Evans D., "Sea Turtle Conservancy." Retrieved from

Javech, J., "Leatherback." NOAA, Retrieved from