Image Source
Info Source:
NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles on Earth and one of the largest reptiles on Earth, growing up to seven feet long and 2,000 pounds. These sea turtles are the only sea turtle that doesn’t have a hard bony shell. Leatherback’s top shell is black and consists of leathery, oil-saturated tissue. These sea turtles have pointed tooth-like cusps and sharp-edged jaws that are adapted for a diet of soft-bodied prey, like jellyfish and salps.

Leatherbacks are known to be open ocean animals, but are also found in shallower, coastal waters. Leatherbacks mate in the waters adjacent to nesting beaches and along migratory corridors. After nesting, female leatherbacks migrate from tropical waters to more temperate latitudes, which support high densities of jellyfish prey in the summer. Female leatherback sea turtles lay about 100 eggs several times during a nesting season.

Leatherback sea turtles have a very wide range. Adults can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and have been seen along the eastern coast of the United States from Maine, down to South America, as well as in the Pacific Ocean. Coastal waters near Saint Croix, Puerto Rico, and the West Coast of the United States have been labeled as critical habitats for Leatherback sea turtles.

Leatherback sea turtles have been labeled as ESA Endangered and have witnessed declining populations and nesting grounds. The largest threat to Leatherback sea turtle populations include the harvesting of eggs, harvesting of turtles, incidental capture in fishing gear, and development on nesting beaches. Many different conservation efforts have been put into effect across many different countries to increase the population of Leatherback sea turtles.