Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts for Kids – Largest Turtle In The World

In this post, we’ll learn some of the amazing leatherback sea turtle facts for kids including its physical description, size, diet, habitat, lifespan, reproduction and much more. Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is by far the largest turtle and fastest-moving reptile in the world. As for its weight, it is the fourth-heaviest among reptiles. From its genus and family, leatherback is the only turtle that is alive today. Not only this, these turtles are also one of the world’s deepest-diving animals. They can dive as deep as 4,200 feet and this dive can last for up to 85 minutes. Leatherbacks are the only turtles whose ancestors trace back to more than 100 million years ago. It means leatherbacks were present at the time of dinosaurs. Finally, leatherbacks are also known as Leathery Turtle, Lute Turtle or simply Luth. Now let’s learn all about leatherback sea turtles and find out some of the interesting facts about leatherbacks!

Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts For Kids

What Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Look Like?

  • The carapace of these turtles is inky-blue in color together with white blotches over it.
  • Unlike other sea turtles, leatherbacks do not have bony upper shell rather their shell is flexible and it has rubbery skin.
  • Leatherback possesses huge body and it is shaped like a teardrop.
  • The large pair of flippers does not have claws.
  • The back flippers of leatherbacks resemble paddles.
  • As compare to its body size, the size of its flippers is the world’s largest for any living turtle.
  • Among sea turtles, this turtle has the most hydrodynamic body structure thanks to the seven ridges on its carapace.
  • The underside of leatherbacks (known as plastron) is pinkish-white in color.
  • There is usually a pink spot at the top of leatherback’s head.
Leatherback Sea Turtle Image - Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts for Kids
Leatherback Sea Turtle – Photo © Ryan Somma

Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Have Teeth?

Sea turtles normally possess chewing plates that allow them to chew solid prey item. While this may be true that leatherbacks do not have teeth, yet there are tooth-shaped cusps and serrated jaws on the upper lip of these turtles. These jaws are built to feed on soft-bodied and slippery prey, like jellyfish. Moreover, the throat of leatherbacks contains backward-pointing spines. Thus, the turtle manages to swallow the prey while at the same time, the prey is retained inside and cannot escape due to the presence of these spines.

How Big Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Get?

  • Leatherbacks can grow from 130 to 183 centimeters in length.
  • The length of their flippers is around 271 centimeters.
  • The length of the largest leatherback sea turtle was 305 centimeters.

Read More:

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Green Sea Turtle Facts for Kids

How Much Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Weigh?

  • The adult leatherback can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.
  • However, leatherbacks normally weigh within a range of 660 to 1,100 pounds.
  • A baby leatherback sea turtle weighs around 40 to 50 grams.

How Long Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Live?

The leatherback sea turtle lifespan probably ranges from 50 to 100 years. However, according to some estimates, these turtles tend to survive for more than 30 years.

How Many Eggs Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Lay?

  • On average, the size of each clutch (nest) is 110 eggs.
  • Each nest consists of about 30 unfertilized eggs.
  • A female lays a total of 9 clutches in one season with an interval of 9 days.
  • The eggs are hatched after 60 to 70 days.
  • The mating season for Atlantic leatherbacks starts from February to July.
  • Female leatherbacks take a break of 2 to 3 years before mating again.

Where Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Lay their Eggs?

Scientists have often witnessed leatherback sea turtle laying eggs on beaches of rather soft sand. This is probably for good reasons. At first, like other turtles, these turtles lack hard bony shell. Secondly, the hard rocks lying nearby may damage the belly of the turtle (known as plastron). Normally, leatherbacks nest in a dark forest near the beach. Unlike other turtles, these turtles tend to change nesting sites and so, female never returns to her hatchlings.

Where Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Live?

  • Among reptiles, leatherbacks have the widest global distribution.
  • This turtle is present in all subtropical and tropical oceans.
  • To the north, it is present all the way up to Norway and the Arctic Circle. To the south, it is found up to Cape Agulhas in South Africa.
  • Generally, leatherbacks are present in the open ocean. Leatherbacks seem to prefer deep water during the day while at night, they usually swim in shallow waters.
  • Due to the huge structure of their body size and a fat thick layer, these turtles are capable of keeping themselves warm from inside, even under cold water.

Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Migrate?

Like other turtles, leatherbacks also undertake migrations. Nevertheless, they tend to cover longest distances from their breeding grounds to their nesting sites. On average, leatherbacks migrate 3,700 miles each way.

When Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Lay Eggs?

Leatherbacks nest during nighttime for two reasons. At first, there is a great danger that predators may eat nestlings in daytime and secondly, the heat is intense during the day.

What Do Leatherback Sea Turtles Eat?

  • The leatherback sea turtle diet consists largely of only one animal i.e. jellyfish.
  • Occasionally, however, they may also eat organisms like octopus and squid.
  • In order to prey on California Jellyfish, the Pacific Leatherback travels a journey of 6,000 miles from its nesting grounds.

How Fast Can A Leatherback Sea Turtle Swim?

  • The maximum recorded leatherback sea turtle speed of swimming is around 22 miles per hour.
  • However, normally this turtle swims up to a speed of 6 miles per hour.

Why Are Leatherback Sea Turtles Endangered Species?

  • Today, some of the most important leatherback sea turtle threats are marine pollution and incidental capture in fishing gear including trawls, longlines and gillnets.
  • Actually, leatherback sea turtles often confuse plastic bags and balloons with jellyfish.
  • However, apart from these, some other threats include vessel collision, development in coastal areas and artificial light.

How Many Leatherback Sea Turtles Are Left In The World?

  • There was a time when leatherbacks were present in almost every ocean around the world (not including Antractic and Arctic). However, the population of these turtles is now on the decline.
  • There are two distinct subpopulations of Pacific leatherbacks i.e. Eastern Pacific Leatherbacks and Western Pacific Leatherbacks.
  • As compare to Atlantic Leatherbacks, the population of Pacific Leatherbacks has declined much more rapidly.
  • The population of western pacific leatherbacks has decreased for about 80 percent and eastern pacific population has gone down by almost 97 percent.
  • According to one estimate, the current population of female leatherbacks is probably 34,000 to 36,000.
  • According to Wallace (and others), the worldwide population of leatherbacks have declined by 40 percent during last three generations.

What Eats A Leatherback Sea Turtle?

  • There are many leatherback sea turtle predators out in the wild but they largely prey on hatchlings and juvenile leatherbacks. Thus, some of these predators include:
  1. Mongoose
  2. Coyotes
  3. Monitor lizard
  4. Raccoons
  5. Dogs
  6. Ghost crabs.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts for Kids – Video

Main Sources:

Information About Sea Turtles: Leatherback Sea Turtle“. Sea Turtle Conservancy

Wallace, B.P., Tiwari, M. & Girondot, M. 2013. Dermochelys coriacea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T6494A43526147. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T6494A43526147.en.

“Leatherback Turtle”. NOAA Fisheries

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