Leatherback Turtle. Photo: Wikicommons

By Nicolle Berroa, age 11

Leatherback sea turtles are one of the world’s largest pelagic turtles found in the open ocean. The thousands of tiny bone plates on its back gives it its leathery look. They are an endangered and vulnerable species due to coastal habitat loss, commercial fishing, egg poaching and human activity. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) set up marine protected areas to ensure that they have a safe place to roam freely. There are an estimated 100,000 nesting females left in the world, compared to 115,000 in 1980. They’re fundamental in the ocean’s ecosystem because they eat large numbers of jellyfish, which helps keep jellyfish populations at bay. They also eat fish, mollusks, squid and sea urchins.

  • Leatherbacks can grow to be up to seven feet and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They are one of the world’s largest turtles!
  • They can dive deeper than 4,000 feet! There are only three other known animals that can dive deeper.
  • Leatherback turtles are one of the most migratory species of the sea turtle species! They travel as much as 10,000 miles or more annually to feed off jellyfish.
  • They can eat twice their own body weight per day!
  • They convert salt water into fresh water by drinking the sea water and excreting the salt.


Pelagic – meaning they swim in the pelagic zone, which is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore. Ecosystem – a community of living organisms interacting as a system.