Monday, May 23, 2011

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea
Did you know that today is World Turtle Day, an event created in 2000 to bring attention to Turtles and Tortoises? In honor of today I'll be doing my own part to inform and educate about one of the world's most endangered Turtle species, the Leatherback Sea Turtle.

Leatherback Sea Turtles are the largest of all the turtle species, one individual was weighed to 2,020lbs (915kg)! They are a pelagic species that can be found in waters around the world, and they make extensive migrations between their feeding and breeding grounds. These incredible turtles have the distinction of having the largest distribution of any reptile, and belong to a family that dates back over 100 million years!

Hatchlings crawl towards the sea
Leatherbacks are also distinctive because unlike most other Turtles, they do not have a hard, bony shell. Their back is actually quite flexible and rubbery feeling, and covered in ridges that make them more hydrodynamic. Leatherbacks can dive down as far as 4,200ft (1,280m), which is also a record for Turtle species. As adults, they feed almost entirely on Jellyfish.

Unfortunately, the Leatherback Sea Turtle is at risk. Egg collection for food and medicine damages their breeding numbers, and the Turtles also find themselves victims of boats and oceanic pollution. They are protected by several different acts, but their large distribution is troubling, as there are so many countries that must make an effort to save the species. Leatherbacks are doing better in the Atlantic ocean due to extensive nest protection, but the Pacific population is still struggling from hunting and habitat loss.

IUCN Status :  Critically Endangered
Location : All oceans worldwide, except Arctic and Antarctic waters
Size : Body Length up to 7ft (2.1m), Weight up to 2,000lbs (907kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Sauropsida -- Order : Testudines
Family : Dermochelyidae -- Genus : Dermochelys -- Species : D. coriacea

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