Species: Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The leatherback turtle has been known to weigh almost a tonne!
The world’s largest species of turtle, the leatherback is indeed a giant of the seas. This species earned its name due to the lack of bony plates on its shell, which is instead flexible and covered in a thin layer of leathery skin. The leatherback turtle feeds mainly on jellyfish and other soft bodied species. It is exceptional amongst reptiles because it is partly able to maintain an elevated body temperature, and uses this feature to allow it to dive to depths greater than 1,000 meters in search of prey. Females lay around 100 eggs in nests excavated on beaches, and the sex of the hatchling turtles is dependent on the temperature of the nest.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the leatherback turtle is global climate change. This is expected to affect this species through habitat loss, physiological changes and loss of prey. Other threats to the leatherback turtle include accidental capture by fishing nets, boat strikes, and ingestion of discarded plastics, which the turtles mistake for jellyfish. The leatherback turtle is protected throughout most of its range and many conservation projects have been set up on leatherback turtle nesting beaches. However, the future still remains uncertain for this fantastic reptile.
Discover more about threatened species on our new Endangered species pages.
Follow tagged leatherback turtles on the Tagging of Pacific Predators website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author