Leatherback Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

APPEARANCE

Leatherback turtles are the largest of all turtles! These reptiles can grow up to seven feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds! Leatherback turtles are unique in appearance because of their lack of characteristic hard shell. Instead, Leatherbacks have a carapace or shell covered by oily flesh. They are tear-drop shaped and grey on top with a light underbelly. 

RANGE & HABITAT

Leatherback turtles are found in temperate and tropical waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 

LIFE CYCLE

Female turtles lay eggs on the beach and rest in waters nearby for 3-4 months. They visit the nests every ten days to check on the eggs. After this time, hatchling turtles emerge and move to the sea to travel with the currents and grow. Leatherbacks reach maturity and breed in 15-25 years. 

ANIMAL USES

Mature Leatherback turtles main predators are sharks. Raccoons, birds, crabs, dogs, and fish prey on turtle eggs during the hatching phase. 

TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Many Indigenous oral histories share some version of the story in which the Great Spirit orders animals to dive into the ocean and bring up clay. The great spirit uses the clay from the bottom of the ocean and forms land on the shell of a turtle. Many First Nations refer to North America as Turtle Island. Turtles are a popular feature in Indigenous art. 

MODERN USES

STATUS

COSEWIC: Not at Risk

CDC: Yellow

MORE INFORMATION

Rantau Abang beach in Malaysia is home to over 10,000 Leatherback Sea Turtles!

Leatherback Sea Turtles come from an evolutionary line that is 100-150 million years old!

PHOTO: Jason Isley -Scubazoo/Science Faction/Corbis