For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/.


Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Leatherback Turtle
Leatherback Turtle

The endangered leatherback turtles are the largest living marine reptiles with average adult weights of more than 800 pounds (400 kg). They perform roundtrip migrations of more than 12,000 miles (20,000 km). Leatherback turtles are widely distributed. Since the 1980s, however, leatherback turtles have declined from an estimated 115,000 to approximately 30,000 individuals.

Major threats to this species include harvesting of eggs and adults, stray fishing gear, ocean pollution, and littering—particularly plastic bags that are mistaken for jellyfish and consumed. Both adult females and hatchlings are disturbed by artificial light at night. Females may not nest and hatchlings may become disoriented, heading inland instead of toward the ocean.

A growing concern for conservation of sea turtle species is the potential impact of climate change on shorelines. Substantial sea turtle nesting habitat construction may be required as water levels rise, particularly along Florida's coast.

The Journey

Leatherback turtles have the longest migration of all sea turtles and spend almost their entire lives at sea. Adult females return to the same beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs. They have been seen as far north as Alaska and as far south as the Cape of Good Hope.

Map of leatherback turtle migration.
Map of leatherback turtle migration.



National Parks

Leatherback turtles use these and other national parks:

Biscayne National Park Cape Hatteras National Seashore Dry Tortugas National Park
Biscayne
National Park
Cape Hatteras
National Seashore
Dry Tortugas
National Park
     
Everglades National Park Padre Island National Seashore  
Everglades
National Park
Padre Island
National Seashore
 

Last Updated: December 17, 2010