Leatherback turtle-Turtar Droimleathair.
- The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world. They are the only species of sea turtle that lack scales and a hard shell. They are named for their tough rubbery skin and have existed in their current form since the age of the dinosaurs. Leatherbacks are highly migratory, some swimming over 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds. They are also accomplished divers with the deepest recorded dive reaching nearly 4,000 feet—deeper than most marine mammals.
- The leatherback turtle has the widest global distribution of any reptile, with nesting mainly on tropical or subtropical beaches. Once prevalent in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic, the leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world. They face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment.
- The leatherback sea turtle is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. It is estimated that the global population has declined 40 percent over the past three generations. Leatherback nesting in Malaysia has essentially disappeared, declining from about 10,000 nests in 1953 to only one or two nests per year since 2003.
- The leatherback has a primarily black, rubbery skin with pinkish-white coloring on its underside. They are the only species of sea turtle that lack scales. Their shell (carapace) consists of small, interlocking dermal bones beneath the skin that overlie a supportive layer of connective tissue and fat and the deeper skeleton. Their carapace has seven ridges along its length and tapers to a blunt point. Their front flippers are proportionally longer than in other sea turtles and their back flippers are paddle-shaped. Both their rigid carapace and their large flippers make the leatherback uniquely equipped for long distance foraging migrations.
- Leatherback sea turtles undertake the longest migrations between breeding and feeding areas of any sea turtle, some averaging 3,700 miles each way. They spend most of their lives in the ocean, but females leave the water to lay eggs. Leatherbacks are strong swimmers and can dive to depths of approximately 4,000 feet—deeper than any other turtle—and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.
- Leatherbacks lack the crushing, chewing plates characteristic of other sea turtles that feed on hard-bodied prey. Instead, they have pointed tooth-like cusps and sharp-edged jaws that are perfectly adapted for a diet of soft-bodied open ocean prey such as jellyfish and salps. A leatherback’s mouth and throat also have backward-pointing spines that help retain gelatinous prey.
- Leatherbacks occur in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Nesting beaches are primarily located in tropical latitudes around the world. Globally, the largest remaining nesting aggregations are found in Trinidad and Tobago, West-Indies (Northwest Atlantic) and Gabon, Africa (Southeast Atlantic).
- Leatherback turtles grow faster than hard-shelled turtles. However, there is uncertainty about the age at which they reach sexual maturity. Average estimates range from 9 to 20 years of age. Likewise, little is known about their life expectancy, but they are likely long-lived, with longevity estimates of 45 to 50 years, or more.