Dermochelys coriacea EN

Leatherback sea turtle and fish

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Scientific name: Dermochelys coriacea (Linnaeus 1766)

 

Common  Name: Tartaruga de Couro or Gigante (Pt), Leatherback Turtle (En), Tortue Luth (Fr), Tortuga Laúd, Baula, Siete Quillas or Canal (Sp).

 

The Leatherback Turtle is the species with the widest distribution in the world’s oceans, since adults are better adapted to cold waters than all the other species, due to the thick layer of fat. However the breeding sites are restricted to tropical regions (rarely subtropical) being mainly concentrated in Gabon, Mexico, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. Significant populations can also be found in Mozambique and Angola, although the numbers are not yet confirmed.
The Leatherback is characterized by its unique shell, consisting of a thin layer of tough skin, reinforced by thousands of small bony plates that make it appear similar to “leather.” Its carapace is large, elongated and flexible with seven distinct ridges located along its length, being dark gray or black in colour, and with white spots.

 

It measures on average 160 cm (curved carapace length) and weighs about 500 Kg. The largest leatherback turtle ever recorded, weighed about 915 Kg.
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This species of sea turtle is the one with most pelagic habits (deep sea waters), however, it can be found in bays and estuaries and feed in very shallow, coastal waters, up to 4 m depth. It mainly feeds on jellyfish and other gelatinous organisms living in the water column between the surface and the deep.
The Leatherback turtle reproduces every 2 or 3 years, and nests 6 to 9 times per reproductive season, laying approximately 88 fertilized eggs per clutch. After approximately 68 days of incubation, the eggs hatch.
The global population of annual nesting females has been estimated to be around 35,800 individuals (according to estimates presented in reports and publications).