The Leatherback Sea Turtle ~ Largest Sea Turtle

by Robert Cheney

in Sea Turtles

The largest sea turtle species in the world is the Leatherback Sea Turtle. It’s the 4th largest reptile in the world and is only surpassed in size by 3 species of crocodiles!

Here are some FAQ on the Leatherback Sea Turtle:

What are Some Neat Leatherback Sea Turtle facts?

  1. They are the largest turtle and 4th largest reptile on earth. They can weigh more than 2,000 pounds and average around 6 feet in length
  2. Like the Sturgeon, they are ancient creatures have been around when the dinosaurs roamed 100 million years ago
  3. They have a rubbery, leathery shell as opposed to most other turtles with their hard carapaces (shells) hence their name Leatherback
  4. Their main diet is jellyfish which they will travel great lengths to obtain. They are the most pelagic of sea turtles, with the entire ocean as their roaming grounds
  5. Only females ever leave the water and that is only for nesting

A Few Leatherback Sea Turtle Pictures:

Giant Leatherback Sea Turtle

Giant Leatherback Sea Turtle laying eggs.

Leatherback sea turtle mouth

Ferocious looking teeth makes it easier to grasp the slippery jellyfish. (image by STAJ)

What is the Leatherback Sea Turtle diet?
Jellyfish are the main staple of its diet, but it is also known to feed on fish, sea urchins, squid, crustaceans, tunicates, blue-green algae, and floating seaweed. They mistake floating plastic for jellyfish which they can choke on.

What are some Leatherback Sea Turtle predators?
A leatherback female lays eggs inland on sandy beaches. All the hatchlings hatch at about the same time leading to a mass jaunt to the safety of the water. Many predators like birds, reptiles, crabs and humans wait for this moment causing the success rate of hatchlings reaching the water at less than 1%. Once leatherbacks reach adulthood they have no predators, except for man and unsubstantiated reports of killer whales and tiger sharks attacks. 

What is Leatherback Sea Turtle  life cycle?

leatherback sea turtle hatching

Baby leatherback emerging from shell


A newly born leatherback starts his life by pushing his way out of an eggshell surrounded by 70 or so of his brothers and sisters. With sand surrounding him, he instinctively starts digging out of the little pit he was born in, gasping for a breath of fresh air. As he climbs to the surface, he realizes it’s nighttime. The little guy probably doesn’t realize what a break he’s gotten by being born at night, when birds and crabs have a much harder time spying him as an addition to their evening’s meal. All he knows, is that he must make it to the safety of the water.

So, off he runs as fast his little flippers can go. A particularly perceptive seagull hones in on the little guy only to be sidetracked by another hatchling, much to its chagrin. Once the baby leatherback makes it to the water, he seeks out a clump of seaweed . This will serve as his shelter and food source for many years. If he’s lucky, he will make it to adulthood and spend his life roaming all 5 oceans in his endless quest for food (preferably jellyfish). He will eventually seek out a mate and life begins anew.

Is the Leatherback Sea Turtle endangered?
Yes.  Leatherbacks have been on the Endangered Species Listsince 1970. They are considered critically endangered which is determined when a species is either facing a very high risk of extinction, its numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations. Next comes extinction. Fisheries are believed to be a major cause of death for leatherbacks. They get caught in fishing nets and drowned. This is not done on purpose as they are considered to oily to be harvested for food.

What is the Leatherback Sea Turtle  habitat?
The leatherback turtle is found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.  It is also found in small numbers as far north as British Columbia, Newfoundland, and the British Isles, and as far south as Australia, Cape of Good Hope, and Argentina. The females prefer sandy beaches with grassy dunes near rough seas to lay their eggs.

What is leatherback sea turtle life span? 
Actual documentation of age is rare. Lifespan is estimated to be 50 years or more. Maybe even a 1oo +years.

Do Leatherback Sea Turtle females return to the place of their birth when laying their own eggs?
Yes, they do by using their sense of smell and their own road map they have imprinted in their brain. Some breeding grounds have been used for thousands of  years.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

mysterious guy August 15, 2013 at 12:32 am

good facts


Turtle369 May 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm

If they are endangered and need help of repopulation, and they return to the place of birth when laying eggs it should be easier to protect them on thier journey to safety, just seems obvious.


Lisandra Degraaf May 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm

It’s laborious to search out educated folks on this subject, but you sound like you understand what you’re talking about! Thanks


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