Turtles are reptiles and the leatherbacks are the largest of all the sea turtles, growing up to eight feet long and exceeding 2,000 pounds. It travels the farthest and ventures into the coldest water. Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 4,200 feet—deeper than any other turtle--and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.
Leatherbacks look very different from other turtles because of their shells. All other sea turtles have bony hard plates on their shells while the shell of a leatherback is slightly flexible and rubbery. It gets its name from the thin tough “leathery” skin that covers its entire body.
The only animals that pose a threat to adult leatherbacks are certain species of large sharks, killer whales, and of course, humans. Not only are their eggs often taken by humans to be consumed, but also only one in a thousand hatchlings survives to adulthood. Many leatherbacks fall victim to fishing lines and nets, while others die by ingesting floating plastic debris mistaken for their favorite food: jellyfish.
Leatherbacks are currently considered an endangered species. Scientists around the world are studying leatherbacks to learn more about these reptilian giants and how they can be saved.