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Leatherback Seaturtle: Dermochelyidae

Physical Characteristics

The leatherback seaturtle, which is the only member of its family, is extremely large. The carapace (KARE-a-pays), or upper shell, measures up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, and the turtle itself weighs just under a ton, at 1,911 pounds (867 kilograms). Most seaturtles have a hard and bony upper shell, but this turtle's carapace has a smooth, leathery skin. It also has an unusual outline. The upper shell is wide at the front but then narrows to a point at the back, giving it a teardrop shape. In addition, seven very noticeable ridges run from the front of the carapace to the back. This shell is usually black with a few white or yellow spots— almost as if someone had shaken a paintbrush over the back of the turtle. The plastron (PLAS-trun), or bottom shell, has coloring that is the opposite of the carapace coloring. Instead of black with light spots, it is white with dark spots. Leatherback turtles also have large front legs, which do not have separate toes and claws but instead look like paddles or fins.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesLeatherback Seaturtle: Dermochelyidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Saving Leatherbacks, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, LEATHERBACK SEATURTLES AND PEOPLE