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Leatherback Turtle: Dermochelys coriacea

Appearance:

Named for their rubbery shell, leatherbacks are covered with a firm, leathery skin and have seven ridges running lengthwise down their backs. They are usually black with white, pink and blue splotches and no claws on their flippers. This largest of Florida’s sea turtles averages 6 feet in length and 500 to 1,500 pounds.  The largest leatherback on record was nearly 10 feet long and weighed over 2,000 pounds.

Habitat:

Leatherbacks are found in Florida’s coastal waters, with a small number nesting here, mostly on the Atlantic coast. Globally, they are found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Travelling as far north as Alaska and Labrador, leatherbacks can regulate their body temperature to survive cold waters.

Behavior:

True denizens of the deep, leatherbacks are capable of descending more than 3,000 feet and traveling more than 3,000 miles from their nesting beach. They can dive deeper, travel farther and tolerate colder waters than other sea turtle species. They eat soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish. Their throat cavity and scissor-like jaws are lined with stiff spines that help them swallow this soft, slippery prey.

Additional Information:

Leatherback nesting in Florida: http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/nesting/leatherback/

Leatherback federal recovery plan: http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/920406.pdf Adobe PDF


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