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Leatherback Turtle - Dermochelys coriacea
Photo by Nancy Black

The leatherback turtle is the largest of the living turtles. Adults can reach seven feet and weight between 650 and 1,200 pounds (295 - 544 kg). The leatherback is distinct from other sea turtles in its size and carapace, or shell. The carapace has a rubber-like texture and is covered by a smooth leathery skin which is often black, or black with small yellowish blotches. Although they spend most of their time in the water, females haul out on sandy shores to dig their nests and deposit their eggs.

Leatherback Turtle
(Dermochelys coriacea)

Most widely distributed reptile species in the world, occurring in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans

Open water, but requires sandy beaches to lay their eggs

Jellyfish, small crabs, and fish


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
The leatherback turtle is the only sea turtle distinctive enough to be classified in a separate family.

Learn More
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- Georgia Museum of Natural History