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Atlantic Leatherback Turtle

Dermochelys coriacea coriacea (Linnaeus)

The Atlantic Leatherback is easily distinguished from the other oceanic turtles by its smooth leather-skinned carapace, which has 7 prominent longitudinal keels. The carapace varies from brown to black, as do the head and neck. The flippers are black but may have some white blotches. The plastron is white with some black blotching.

Atlantic Leatherbacks are the largest living turtles in the world. Adults usually range from 137 to 178 cm in length and weigh 295 to 544 kg. Larger individuals are uncommon. This species has its throat lined with backward-pointing spines, an adaptation that enables it to feed extensively on jellyfish. Leatherbacks can possibly be harmed by ingesting man-made debris that looks like jellyfish. Many people have stopped releasing helium ballons into the air because of this.

The Atlantic Leatherback is by far the most common sea turtle recorded in Nova Scotian coastal waters. This may be due to the huge size and the fact that they frequently become tangled in fishing gear. Most records are from Halifax County, but they can be expected anywhere along the Nova Scotia Coast. One or two are reported most years.

Leatherback Turtles are listed as "Endangered" in Canadian waters by the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada. This means they are threatened with imminent extinction. All marine turtles are considered to be endangered species. For many years their eggs have been dug out of nesting sites on sandy beaches in the southern United States and Mexico and the tropics. The adults are captured and used for food, and their skins and shells are used commercially. We should recognize that they are an important part of ocean life and contribute to their conservation by releasing animals which survive being tangled in fishing gear, and not buying turtle products.

Fresh Water and Land Turtles

Eastern Painted Turtle

Wood Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Blanding's Turtle

Sea Turtles

Atlantic Leatherback Turtle

Atlantic Ridley Turtle

Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle

Turtle Information

Observing Nova Scotia Turtles