card
127

leatherback sea turtle

OLogy Series
animal
card
127

leatherback sea turtle

OLogy Series
animal

The leatherback is the world's largest turtle. Unlike the bony exterior of other sea turtles, the exterior of the leatherback's shell is rubbery, because the bones are under the skin. They enjoy snacking on jellyfish and seaweed. Because people have been building houses on the beaches where leatherbacks nest, they have been on the Endangered Species List since 1970.

A Shore Thing
After the female leatherback mates with the male turtle in the ocean, she swims ashore at night. She digs a hole in the sand and lays 80 to 100 eggs that look kind of like billiard balls. At dawn, she returns to the sea. The eggs hatch in about two months. Once the baby turtles hatch, they quickly scamper down the beach to avoid any encounters with hungry predators like sea gulls. Only one or two hatchlings will make it to the safety of the ocean. When baby leatherbacks grow up, they will return to the same beach to lay their eggs, continuing the cycle of life. These sea turtles have been using the same tropical beaches for nesting for thousands of years. As more and more of these beaches are destroyed, the leatherbacks' future is in jeopardy.

A nest of 100 leatherback sea turtle eggs will probably produce how many adult turtles?

about 1 or 2

about 10 to 15

about 50 to 60

Are you right?

Correct!

Very few of the mother's eggs survive to adulthood. Most eggs are eaten by predators such as raccoons. Later, many hatchlings are devoured by sea gulls.

How much food does a leatherback turtle eat every day?

about 5 pounds

about 300 pounds

about 2,000 pounds

Are you right?

Correct!

Leatherback sea turtles eat about twice their weight every day. Adult leatherbacks can eat almost 2,000 pounds of jellyfish and other soft sea creatures in one day.

Leatherbacks can stay underwater for only short periods of time.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Leatherbacks don't need scuba gear. They can stay underwater for a long time. They are also insulated with a layer of fat to keep them warm in cool ocean temperatures.

Scientists can tell if the leatherback hatchlings will be male or female by the temperature of their nest.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

As with many reptiles, the temperature of the leatherback's nest reveals the hatchlings' gender. The cooler the nest, the more eggs will produce male turtles.

leatherback sea turtle
Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea
Size: 5 to 6 feet long
Diet: jellyfish, shrimp, and other small ocean creatures
Habitat: Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans
Characteristics: large turtles with leathery shells
Threats: overfishing, pollution, the introduction of non-native animals, and the development of tropical beaches

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH, Hall of Reptiles.