The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) lays claim to many impressive titles. It is the world’s largest turtle and the second-largest reptile on Earth, with a shell growing up to 8 feet in length and a total weight of up to 1,600 pounds. Read more >>
Leatherback populations in the Pacific Ocean have declined by more than 80 percent, and the species has entirely disappeared from some areas. Pollution of our oceans with discarded plastics, egg poaching, coastal development, and accidental capture in fisheries are mostly to blame.
READ MORE: Explore all threats to leatherback turtles.
Circumglobal; nesting areas in tropics, non-nesting range extends to sub-polar regions; present in all world’s oceans except Arctic and Antarctic.
(adults) length 140-160 cm; mass 300-1000 kg
For all life stages leatherbacks feed exclusively on gelatinous zooplankton (jellies and jelly-like organisms). The gastrointestinal tract of the leatherback (from mouth to stomach) can be 2 meters long, which allows for grinding/pre-processing (as well as increased intake and storage) of its food to facilitate more rapid and efficient digestion.
The esophagus is lined with thorns , "cornified papillae", which trap swallowed bits of food to prevent regurgitation. The shape of the upper jaw, like a ‘W,’ is thought to help tear jellyfish into mouth-sized chunks.
Every 2-4 yr; ~4-7 clutches of eggs per season; 50-90 eggs per clutch; eggs ~ 80 grams (billiard ball size); hatchlings emerge after ~60 days of incubation; hatchlings ~50mm in length and weigh ~40-50 grams)
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Learn more about the biennial event that has everyone talking – the Great Turtle Race, which sets nearly a dozen leatherbacks racing across the Atlantic ocean while commentators, sponsors, coaches and fans look on.
Leatherback sea turtles are record-holders for more than just their size. Learn about the many incredible feats of these marine reptiles.