The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest of all turtles with some adults growing to be as heavy as up to 700 kg, as long as more than 2 m and having 2.7 m long flippers.
The Leather back is the most widely distributed sea turtle, and can be found in every ocean of the world. It survives and remains active in frigid temps that other sea turtles cannot bear. Leatherbacks inhabit mangrove swamps, oceans, lagoons and beaches. In Costa Rica, they can be found nesting at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, Corcovado National Park, Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge and Marino Las Baulas National Park.
Mating & Reproduction
Males and females mate at sea. Leatherback Turtles practice polyandry (when multiple males mate with a single female), and they appear to respond to a pheromone released by females that are ready to copulate. Courtship is usually displayed by nuzzling and softly biting the female’s flippers.
Leatherback females do not always return to the site of their own hatching. They may choose a beach or swamp in the same area. They nest at night when predation is lowest, and the moon is normally nearly full or waning at this time. Leatherbacks regularly lay their eggs in forested areas where the sand is soft. The moon helps them to direct their path in these instances. On average, clutch sizes are around 110 eggs, and the female may lay eggs every nine days or so.
The diet of Leatherbacks consists almost entirely of jellyfish. They are also known to eat cephalopods and tunicates, but this food source pales in comparison to the amount of jellyfish it consumes. Their diet can be a danger to them, because people regularly dispose of plastic bags in the sea. These plastic bags are mistaken for jellyfish and eaten by foraging Leatherbacks.
Leatherback Sea Turtles play an important role for fishermen. Since their diet is so heavily reliant on eating jellyfish, they lower the numbers of jellyfish in the sea. Jellyfish prey almost entirely on the larvae of certain fish that fishermen regularly try to catch when they are adults, so the Leatherback helps to insure the economy and food source for a number of people.
Leatherbacks are listed as vulnerable in terms of conservation.
Where to see it in Costa Rica: Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, Corcovado National Park, Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, Marino Las Baulas National Park
Diet: jellyfish, tunicates, cephalopods
Migration Pattern: 20,000 km between nesting and feeding sites worldwide
Habitat: mangrove swamp, ocean, lagoon, beaches
Size: length=1.83-2.2 m weight=700 kg front flippers=2.7 m
Species: Dermochelys coriacea