Leatherback turtles are pelagic, feeding primarily on jellyfish, they can be found from Alaska to the southern tip of Africa and are present in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
They are the most commonly reported turtle species in UK and Irish waters are now widely regarded as a regular member of the British and Irish marine fauna.
Most sighting are made between July and October in the waters around the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Marine Conservation Society
The leatherback is the sole living representative of the family Dermochelyidae. It is clear that the leatherbacks extensive migrations to British waters are to follow swarms of jellyfish which are the leatherbacks main prey item. Breeding occurs in shallow tropical waters, although female leatherbacks will come high up on the shore to deposit their eggs. Populations of leatherbacks are in serious decline due to a number of factors. These include loss of nesting habitats, destruction of nests by poachers, propeller wounds, interaction with commercial fisheries and ingestion of marine debris.
Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) Appendix I
Bern Convention Appendix II
Bonn Convention Appendices I and II
EC Habitats Directive Annex II, IV
OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic
Scottish Biodiversity List of species of principal importance for biodiversity conservation
The leatherback is the world's largest sea turtle, it has a carapace (shell) up to 2 m in length and can weigh a total of 0.5 tonnes. Characteristic features are a blackish leathery shell with 7 longitudinal ridges along the back, three of which are clearly visible when the animal is swimming at the surface. The skin is also black and relatively smooth with pale spotting. The leatherback is warm-blooded (endothermic), maintaining a body temperature of around 25 °C, which is unusual as most reptiles are cold-blooded (ectotherms).
Up to 2 m in length, weighs up to 0.5 tonnes.
7 ridges along back.
Blackish leathery shell, with pale spotting under skin.