Wildlife Fact Sheets

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback Sea Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

  • Life Span
    It’s a mystery! But I’ve been known to live at least 30 years.
  • Habitat
    I love the open ocean, but you can also find me in coastal waters.
  • Range
    I’m a strong swimmer. You can find me worldwide in tropical and subtropical oceans.
  • Preferred Food
    I’m a picky eater because I don’t have any teeth, but I LOVE to eat salps and jellyfish! You might think the jellies would hurt me, but you’d be wrong. I’ve actually got special adaptations to protect me from sea jelly venom called papillae, which are like little spines that I’ve evolved over time to keep me safe and jellies in my belly.


I am the largest sea turtle in the world! I can grow up to seven feet and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. While all other sea turtles have a hard body shell, I do not. You can recognize me by my soft carapace (top shell). My top shell has a smooth, bluish-black leathery skin with small white spots that covers a matrix of bones with seven ridges (keels). My back is actually where I get my name—since it’s smooth and leathery!

We are the most migratory and wide-ranging of all sea turtle species—take that loggerheads! If you look in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean you will find us. After reaching sexual maturity at age 16, we make our way back to the exact beach where we were born (our “natal beach”) where we nest every two or three years. We climb onto the beach at night, lay clutches of over 100 eggs during the breeding season, and then return to the sea. After about two months, hatchlings emerge from the nest and make their journey to the ocean.

Did You Know?

I can dive to depths of 4,200 feet, deeper than any other turtle, and I can hold my breath for up to 85 minutes.

Status and Conservation

I spend my days swimming through the vast open ocean looking for tasty treats. Unfortunately, I encounter a lot of trash and other dangers along my journey. I have large front flippers that can easily get entangled in trash or lost fishing gear, which makes it hard for me to swim and can even be fatal. I can easily confuse plastic bags and my favorite food: jellyfish. So to ensure our amazing species continues to thrive, humans need to work to keep plastics off the beaches and from entering the ocean.

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