Leatherback sea turtles are some of the most well known because they are the largest of all of the currently living turtles. Leatherbacks are also interesting because they are the only living species in the genus Dermochelys. In addition, these turtles are not often confused with any other species because they do not have the hard shell that every other species of turtle has.
The leatherback sea turtles have a leathery skin covering the carapace, under tskin is a mosaic of bony plates. When you combine all of these different features of the leatherback it makes them a very interesting species.
Leatherback sea turtles have the same body plan, a very large, flat, round body with two pairs of legs and a very large head and a short tail. The front limbs are very well adapted for swimming in the open ocean, allowing for them to move with great force and speed when necessary. The highly evolved flippers also allow them to move against strong ocean currents when they need to. In addition to the well-defined appendages, they have a very large head and a short tail.
Leatherback sea turtles are similar to other species, except they are very large. In fact, just the flipper of full-grown leather can be as long as 270 centimeters in length! These turtles grow very large, usually measuring in at one to two meters long and usually weigh in at 250 to 700 kilograms. The largest of the leatherback sea turtles on record was over three meters from head to tail and it weight more than 900 kilograms, usually found on or near the beaches of Wales in the North Atlantic. The Leatherback is the fourth largest reptile, coming in just behind crocodiles.
Leatherback sea turtles might be the biggest of the sea turtles, but size does not slow them down. These turtles are known to be the deepest divers of all reptiles, as there have been discovered at depths of more than 1,200 meters! The leatherbacks are also featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest reptile on record and have been cited swimming at 35.28 kilometers per hour!
Leatherback sea turtles are also some of the most widespread of the species they are found in most seawater with the exception of the Arctic Ocean. They are spread as far north as Alaska and Norway and as far south as the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and even the southern tip of New Zealand.