Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

Summary 4

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), sometimes called the lute turtle or leathery turtle, is the largest of all living turtles and is the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It is the only living species in the genus Dermochelys and family Dermochelyidae. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell, hence the name. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh. Dermochelys is the...

Diagnosis 5

The leatherback has several characteristics that distinguish it from other sea turtles. Its most notable feature is the lack of a bony carapace. Instead of scutes, it has thick, leathery skin with embedded minuscule osteoderms. Seven distinct ridges rise from the carapace, crossing from the cranial to caudal margin of the turtle's back. Leatherbacks are unique among reptiles in that their scales lack β-keratin. The entire turtle's dorsal surface is colored dark grey to black, with a scattering of white blotches and spots. Demonstrating countershading, the turtle's underside is lightly colored.[1][2] Instead of teeth, the leatherback turtle has points on the tomium of its upper lip, with backwards spines in its throat (oesophagus) to help it swallow food and to stop its prey from escaping once caught.[1][3]

Conservation 4

Leatherback turtles have few natural predators once they mature; they are most vulnerable to predation in their early life stages. Birds, small mammals, and other opportunists dig up the nests of turtles and consume eggs. Shorebirds and crustaceans prey on the hatchings scrambling for the sea. Once they enter the water, they become prey to predatory fish and cephalopods.

Leatherbacks have slightly fewer human-related threats than other sea turtle species. Their flesh contains too much oil and fat to be considered palatable, reducing the demand. However, human activity still endangers leatherback turtles in direct and indirect ways. Directly, a few are caught for their meat by subsistence fisheries. Nests are raided by humans in places such as Southeast Asia. [4]

Many human activities indirectly harm Dermochelys populations. As a pelagic species, D. coriacea is occasionally caught as bycatch. Entanglement in lobster pot ropes is another hazard the animals face.[5] As the largest living sea turtles, turtle excluder devices can be ineffective with mature adults. In the eastern Pacific alone, a reported average of 1,500 mature females were accidentally caught annually in the 1990s.[4] Pollution, both chemical and physical, can also be fatal. Many turtles die from malabsorption and intestinal blockage following the ingestion of balloons and plastic bags which resemble their jellyfish prey.[1] Chemical pollution also has an adverse effect on Dermochelys. A high level of phthalates has been measured in their eggs.[4]

Sources and Credits 5

  1. "Species Fact Sheet: Leatherback Sea Turtle". Caribbean Conservation Corporation & Sea Turtle Survival League. Caribbean Conservation Corporation. 29 December 2005. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  2. Fontanes, F. (2003). "ADW: Dermochelys coriacea: Information". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
  3. Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9.
  4. "WWW - Leatherback Turtle - Threats". Marine Turtles. World Wide Fund for Nature. 16 February 2007. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2007.
  5. "TURTLE CAUGHT WITH CRAY POT". West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954). 1951-01-03. p. 10. Retrieved 2017-06-01.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Thailandecoportal.com, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/46884099@N05/4763218964
  2. (c) FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), https://www.flickr.com/photos/myfwc/34412941986/
  3. (c) bathyporeia, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), https://www.flickr.com/photos/bathyporeia/13954370785/
  4. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), https://www.inaturalist.org/guide_taxa/705959
  5. (c) Caleb Cam, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), https://www.inaturalist.org/guide_taxa/705959

More Info

iNat Map