Sea Creature of the Week!

Dec 21 2011

Leatherback Turtle

Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea

Home: This enormous marine animal has the largest range of all reptiles and can be can found in tropical, subtropical and even frigid arctic waters around the world. The leatherback spends most of its time in the open seas looking for food. It prefers to mate and nest on beaches adjacent to deeper waters and tends to avoid beaches near coral reefs.

Physical features: The leatherback is the largest of all turtles and can weigh over 2000 lbs. It also has the largest flippers out of all its turtle relatives. They extend out of its tear-shaped body and grow up to 9 feet in length. The leatherback’s other distinguishing characteristic, besides its enormous size, is its lack of bony carapace or hard shell. In lieu of the typical turtle shell our marine friend has a oily leathery osteoderms  (a layer of skin embedded with bony deposits). Its shell is grayish black while its underside tends to be of a lighter hue. The sharp point on it’s beak, the tomium , is what this marine creature uses to rip apart its food. The backwards spines in the back of its throat help it swallow its prey.

Food: The leatherback turtle spend the majority of their day hunting the only thing they like to eat, jellyfish. They eat twice their weight daily! Sadly many times the leatherback mistake plastic debris such as plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish. Even ingesting the slightest amount of plastic can obstruct their digestive tracts and be fatal.

Conservation status: Critically endangered

• One of the largest threats to the leatherback population is the fact that many people collect its eggs for food! #NotSoFunFact
• The leatherback will travel as far as 12, 000 miles to lay its eggs!
• The Leatherback turtle is one of the deepest diving living mammals. It can reachdepths of over 4,200 ft!

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