22.10.2021

Leatherback turtle – ancient inhabitant

Turtles are rightfully considered the oldest animals, since they appeared about 200 million years ago. The leatherback turtle is the largest representative of the order of turtles found in nature today. Tropical seas are the traditional habitat of leatherback turtles.

In theory, they can live farther north, as they know how to regulate body temperature better than other turtles .

However, in this case, the leatherback turtle will need to get more food, which is not so easy when the average leatherback turtle grows 1.5 – 2 meters and weighs about 600 kilograms. Although the leatherback turtle feels great in the water, swims well, and can dive for a kilometer, its speed is not enough to hunt fish. Therefore, the food is based on jellyfish, molluscs, crustaceans and other slow animals. Having caught the prey, the turtle bites it with its beak and immediately swallows it. The victim has no chance to get out, since the mouth, pharynx and esophagus of the turtle are covered with sharp spines bent inward.

The shell of a leatherback turtle is different from that of other turtles. If traditionally it consists of horny plates, then the shell of a leatherback turtle is a thick, coarse skin. It is believed that this change in the structure of the shell allows the turtle to swim better. There are not many enemies who risk attacking such a large animal, therefore this turtle does not need a strong shell.

The leatherback turtle spends its entire life in the water, so it can be safely called a sea animal. Just for the sake of laying eggs, the turtle goes to land. Since leatherback turtles do not live in herds, but alone and spend all their time in the water, it is not easy to spot them. Accordingly, it is difficult to find where the turtles lay their eggs. To date, scientists know only a few of these places.

On land, the leatherback turtle is slow, but it is able to dig a pit-well up to 1 meter deep, where it will then place up to 130 eggs. Next, the turtle fills the hole with sand and tamped it down so that predators could not get to the clutch . After two months, young turtles hatch from their eggs, get out to the surface and rush to the sea.

Although leatherback turtles are edible for humans, they are not specially caught. However, the places where the turtles lay their eggs are increasingly used as beaches by the tourism industry. This discourages leatherback turtles from their favorite spots and interferes with the natural reproduction of the species.

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