Leatherback sea turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

Fascinating Facts

  • They are the largest turtle, reaching 7 ft long and up to 1,500 lbs!
  • Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 4,200 ft and can hold their breath for up to 85 minutes.
  • They are the only turtle with a soft, flexible carapace.
  • At sexual maturity, females return to the land where they dig a hole in the sand and deposit their 80-100 eggs.
  • Males spend their entire life at sea.
  • Greatest threats include marine debris ingestion (plastic bags look like jellyfish), and unsustainable fishing methods (gill netting, etc).


They are mostly pelagic (open ocean) animals, and they follow the populations of their prey around the globe. Their throats are covered in backwards-facing spines that aid them in catching soft-bodied, gelatinous pelagic animals like jellyfish.

Status in the Wild

Vulnerable – IUCN 2013


Leatherbacks have the widest global distribution of all reptiles, and can be found in tropic and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Once adults, they travel as far north as Canada and Norway and as far south as New Zealand and Argentina.


Location in the Zoo

Reptiles and Birds Zone of the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Animals & Exhibits