The lack of a hard shell makes the leatherback sea turtle the most easily identifiable sea turtle species. Instead of a hard shell, the carapace is covered in thick, leathery skin, with five to seven raised ridges. Adult leatherbacks can reach up to 1.75m (5.75ft) carapace length and 2.2m (7.2ft) overall. On average, leatherback sea turtles reach about 1.5 m (4.9ft) carapace length, and 2m (6ft) overall.

 

 

Leatherback ID

Illustration: Kaitlin Asson

Key identifying characteristics

1. Carapace is flexible, not hard-shelled

2. 5 – 7 dorsal ridges running lengthwise on carapace

3. Lacks claws on flippers

4. Carapace is dark grey or black, and may have pale-colored spots

 

 

Before attempting to identify a turtle, alert the

Oregon Marine Mammal Network at 1-800-452-7888

 

Examples

 

Side view of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Side view of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Close up view of the head of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Close up view of the head of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front angle view of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Front angle view of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Close up view of the face of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Close up view of the face of a Leatherback Sea Turtle at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service.