Leatherback Sea Turtle

Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Suborder: Cryptodira
  • Clade: Americhelydia
  • Family: Dermochelyidae
  • Genus: Dermochelys
  • Species: D. coriacea

There is a species of turtle which is truly spectacular, the Leatherback Sea Turtle. The largest turtle on our planet today, weighing up to an astonishing 1,500 pounds in adulthood, as well as reaching up to an impressive 63 inches in length. Originating from a family of turtles that existed over 100 million years ago, they look truly prehistoric.

The Leatherback Sea turtle gained its name from its distinct shell, which is unique only to this turtle. Other turtles have hard and bone-like shells rather than the flexible and leather-like shell found on the Leatherback. These particular turtles are distributed more vastly than any other species, they have been found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and as far as the Mediterranean Sea.

As an extremely migratory species, they can swim like no other turtle, with an ability to dive 4,200 feet and stay underwater for up to 85 minutes. Migrating mainly for reproduction, they travel great lengths to find the perfect nesting spot on shore to start a new life cycle.

Declining vastly in numbers throughout the last century, today the Leatherback Sea Turtle is sadly listed as a vulnerable species. Despite the turtle's extreme efforts to lay eggs on the shores, the species is negatively affected by the actions of humans. Coastal development, egg-snatching, and an increasing demand for fish and seafood see many of these turtles be accidentally caught up in nets, without surviving. Like all life in the sea, pollution threatens this species too. Chemicals that are leaked into the sea are deadly for the Leatherback, as well as plastic waste such as bags which are often mistakenly confused for jellyfish, the turtle’s main food source.

Conservation teams are trying determinedly to protect nesting shores for the animal as well as reduce the industrial fishing scale. With continued determination, we can help to protect this extraordinary creature.

Estimated Leatherback Sea Turtle population figures in the Eastern Pacific between 1990 and 2016

The Graph above is a representation of the estimated Leatherback Sea Turtle population in the Eastern Pacific between the years of 1990 and 2016. As seen from the graph, the species population stood at 1500 between the years of 1990 and 1991, and decreased drastically to today’s figure of just 101. The fluctuations in the Leatherback Sea Turtles population possibly represent the inability to precisely calculate nests per year, as well as the species behavioral changes.

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