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Leatherbacks are the largest and the most migratory of all sea turtles, travelling more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beaches.
Leatherbacks also have a distinctive leathery shell that gives them their name.
Sea turtles have been around for over 100 million years, but unfortunately, thanks to the human hands, they are all endangered species now. But the ones that suffered the most are the Pacific leatherback sea turtles.
Indeed, as of 2022, there are only about 2,300 adult females remaining, making the Pacific leatherback sea turtle the most endangered marine turtle population in the world.
Leatherback Sea Turtles are Huge!
10 Fun Facts About Leatherback Sea Turtles
Here are 10 fun facts about leatherhead sea turtles you may or may not know!
1) Leatherback Turtles Are the Largest Sea Turtle Species on Earth!
The leatherback turtle is the largest living marine turtle. These turtles can grow up to 6 feet in length (about 2 meters) and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms).
Despite their size, leatherback sea turtles start out very small, indeed hatchlings start out weighing only one or two pounds. After three years of growth they can weigh up to 250 pounds.
2) Leatherback Sea Turtles Have a Varied Diet
Leatherback sea turtles are found mainly in tropical waters, and their diet varies. This is due to the availability of different food sources in the various areas they inhabit.
Leatherbacks can eat crustaceans, jellyfish, sponges and algae, depending on what's around.
3) Leatherback Sea Turtles Spend Most of Their Lives in the Ocean
The loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their lives in the ocean, but females come ashore when they are ready to lay eggs. They will often wait for high tide so they can dig deep holes in the sand using their flippers and lay eggs.
4) Leatherback Sea Turtles Have a Long Lifespan
These turtles have a long lifespan, which can range from 70-80 years.
Leatherbacks have had a tough time in recent years with their population declining drastically.
Although there has been an increase in their population since the '80s, it is still at a low level when compared to other sea turtle species.
5) Leatherback Sea Turtles Have a Very Powerful Jaw
Leatherback turtles have a powerful jaw that they use to catch and eat their prey.
With their powerful jaws, they can easily break through hard shells and tough skin of prey.
Leatherbacks are one of the few animals that can eat jellyfish. They use their sharp, pointed cusps on their jaws to pierce and hold onto the jellyfish until they can swallow them whole.
The powerful jaw of the leatherback is critical to their ability to capture these prey.
6) Leatherback Sea Turtles Can Defend Themselves!
Most sea turtles have a hard shell to help protect them from predators, but the leatherback sea turtle have a soft shell.
Fortunately, because they are so large and they are also very fast swimmers, they are not under any real threat from other predators, but the biggest threat to them is us.
Their population is declining due to harvesting for meat and eggs, accidental capture in fishing nets, plastic pollution, entanglement with fishing gear, and climate change.
7) Leatherback Sea Turtles Are Solitary Creatures
Like most of the sea turtle species, leatherback sea turtles are solitary and territorial creatures, only coming into contact with other adult turtles during the mating season.
8) Leatherback Sea Turtles Reach Sexual Maturity at a Much Slower Rate
The leatherback sea turtle reaches sexual maturity between 7 and 13 years, a much slower rate than most other species of turtle.
This is due to their large size, which reduces the number of potential mates in the population.
The leatherback sea turtle has a low reproductive rate due to their long lifespan and low number of eggs produced per year.
Leatherback sea turtles lay about 8 to 12 times during one entire nesting season, between the months of April and November, with an interval of 9 to 10 days from one another.
They lay a group of about 100 eggs on average every interval, and they only lay eggs every two to three years.
They mate offshore in shallow waters near the nesting area.
Leatherback sea turtles are able to remember where they nest and return to their favorite beaches through an invisible magnetic force of the Earth.
The eggs hatch after about two months.
9) Leatherback Sea Turtles Are Great Swimmers
Leatherback sea turtles can reach sea depth in search of food of 4,200 feet, more than any other sea turtle species.
They are also very fast and can swim up to 22 miles per hour.
Their large, long and powerful front flippers allow them to swim quickly and efficiently.
Leatherback sea turtles are able to stay underwater for an extended period of time. These turtles can hold their breath for up to 2 hours when resting. The turtle holds its breath by slowing down its breathing rate to conserve oxygen.
Their ability to hold their breath underwater is also a crucial trait in surviving in the ocean.
10) Leatherback Sea Turtles Can Bite!
Leatherback sea turtles have powerful jaws.
Although they don’t have teeth Leatherback sea turtles are known for their bites. When threatened, these turtles quickly snap at anything that gets too close to the jaw, which can lead to painful bruising and broken bones.
Leatherback sea turtles are gentle giants of the ocean, they are the largest living marine reptiles, but also among the most threatened species on Earth.
In addition to the dangers of being captured in fishing nets, their eggs are frequently eaten by other animals and their nesting sites are disturbed. As a result, only one out of 1,000 leatherbacks will survive until adulthood.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Alex Ferris