Leatherback

Credit: Claudia Lombard, USFWS

 

The Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), sometimes called the lute turtle, is the largest of all living turtles, growing up to seven feet in length and weighing 2,000 pounds. They are named for their unique shell, which instead of being hard, is somewhat flexible and almost feels rubbery to the touch.

The Leatherback has the largest range of any of the sea turtles as well as the longest migrations from feeding to mating habitats, measuring on average almost 4,000 miles.

 

 

 

Fast Facts:

  • Leatherbacks can dive deeper than any other species, diving to depths of 4,200 feet
  • Their favorite food is jellyfish; however, plastic bags floating in the ocean are often mistaken for their favorite treat and Leatherbacks have been found with up to 11 pounds of plastic bags in their stomachs
  • Population levels in the Atlantic Ocean are relatively stable, while populations in the Pacific Ocean are declining due to increases in human-based threats
  • The largest Leatherback ever found was 8.5-ft-long and weighed 2,020 lbs 

The biggest threats to the Leatherback are poaching, fishery bycatch, coastal development, and highly variable food availability. They have been previously listed as the most endangered sea turtle species, but due to effective conservation efforts, populations have begun to stabilize and their endangerment status has been changed from critically endangered to endangered.