Leatherback Sea Turtle

close up of leatherback head

The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest of the sea turtle species.  This marine giant is also the largest reptile alive today.  They weigh an average of 270-680 kilograms (600-1500 pounds) and can grow to be 2 meters (6 ½ feet) long!

 Leatherbacks are very different from the other sea turtle species.   Instead of a hard shell, they have a soft, black, leathery carapace with long ridges running from head to tail.   This body form allows leatherbacks to live in colder, deeper waters and undergo long migrations.  They feed primarily on jellyfish and can be found in small numbers on Florida’s beaches from February through May.

 

leatherback nest on beach

Freshly laid leatherback nest found at sunrise.

close up of leatherback eggs

Marine Turtle Specialists excavate all of the sea turtle nests on Boca Raton's beach to record how successful each nest was.This leatherback nest had a few eggs in it that did not hatch.

 

hatchling leatherback sea turtle on sand

Leatherback hatchling

side view of leatherback nest with data logger

Leatherback nest with data logger inserted. The tiny eggs are called spacers. They are not fertile eggs and are commonly laid by leatherback females.