Leatherback Sea Turtle | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

Also known as

Leatherback, leathery turtle

Distribution

Global oceans; tropical to cold temperate waters

Ecosystem/Habitat

Coastal to open ocean; deep diver

Feeding Habits

Omnivore (mostly feed on jellyfish)

Conservation Status

Endangered

Taxonomy

Order Chelonii (turtles & tortoises); Family Dermochelyidae (leatherback sea turtles)

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Leatherback sea turtles have been swimming around the world’s oceans for more than 90 million years. They are the largest living turtle in the world, growing to more than two meters long and weighing 900 kilograms. Their preferred food is jellyfish, but because they are not very nutritious, each turtle needs to consume enough jellyfish to match its own body weight every day! To help them capture and eat these soft-bodied animals, they have a sharply pointed cusp at the end of their snout for piercing, and backward-pointing spines all the way down their throat to help swallow their slippery prey.

In 2012, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) listed both the Atlantic and Pacific population of leatherback sea turtles as Endangered. It is estimated that there are fewer than 30,000 nesting females worldwide today, due to human development on and destruction of nesting beaches, harvesting of eggs (which is now illegal but is still commonplace), and negative interactions with fisheries as bycatch. Both Atlantic and Pacific populations have also been listed under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Endangered, which has led to developing a recovery plan for leatherbacks in Canadian waters.

Oceana Canada is working to protect Canada’s oceans for species like the leatherback sea turtle. Find out more about our campaigns and join us in helping to bring abundance back to the ocean.