Fun Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 25, 2022 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed
Leatherback sea turtle facts, like they are a sea turtle species that don't have a hard shell, are interesting.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

Leatherback sea turtles are among the rarest marine turtles in the world. Unlike other turtles that have hard shells, leatherback turtles have shells that are rubbery to the touch and almost leather-like in terms of their texture. Their shells are the reason why they are called leatherback turtles. They live across tropical and subtropical regions of the world and exist as far south as Africa and as far north as Alaska. Other areas of the world with widest distribution of leatherback turtle populations are South America and New Zealand.

Leatherback turtles aren't just unique because of their shells. They also have certain traits that are unlike those found in other turtles around the world. For instance, leatherback turtles can maintain a high body temperature through endothermy or metabolically generated heat. Several studies have been done on the metabolic rates of turtles leatherback and they have revealed that the metabolic rate of leatherback turtles is almost three times higher than what is generally seen in reptiles of their size.

We're going to share a ton of facts of leatherback turtles, which are also known by their scientific name turtle Dermochelys coriacea. So, if you have a keen interest in turtles, particularly the turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), read on! For more unique facts articles on Kidadl, please check out olive ridley sea turtle and aldabra giant tortoise.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a leatherback sea turtle?

The leatherback sea turtle is a reptile that is found on beaches, the ocean and on land.

What class of animal does a leatherback sea turtle belong to?

A leatherback sea turtle belongs to the class of animal known as reptilia or reptiles.

How many leatherback sea turtles are there in the world?

The present number of female leatherback sea turtles is around 2,300, which is quite a low number. Human presence and activities that have affected the global environment have contributed to the sharp decline in numbers of the leatherback sea turtle population living in the oceans such as the Pacific and on the beaches.

Where does a leatherback sea turtle live?

Leatherback sea turtles live in the ocean, searching for jellyfish and other species for food.

What is a leatherback sea turtle's habitat?

A giant leatherback sea turtle is typically found in the open oceans such as the Pacific, which is its natural habitat. However, a leatherback sea turtle range is quite big. It can thrive in the tropics in the south and in the harsh environment of the Arctic circle as well. The journey of a leatherback sea turtle baby in the ocean from the beginning is one that involves chasing its prey, jellyfish. A leatherback sea turtle was once tracked by scientists while swimming to the US from Indonesia. The turtle covered 20,000 km within 647 days. During the day, a leatherback sea turtle predator, while hunting jellyfish, will spend more time in the depths of the ocean for feeding. However, as the jellyfish rise up the water column at night, the largest leatherback sea turtle will come to shallower depths. During breeding, they prefer certain types of nesting beaches as the leatherback sea turtle habitat. Mainland sites that face the deep ocean waters make for perfect nesting beaches.

Who do leatherback sea turtles live with?

Leatherback sea turtles are solitary creatures and live on their own, except when mating,

How long does a leatherback sea turtle live?

There is much debate surround the leatherback sea turtle lifespan. While some people say that leatherback sea turtles live up to 30-50 years, others claim that they live beyond 100 years.

How do they reproduce?

The reproduction of the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle happens in the open ocean near landmasses like New Zealand. Males, when encountering females, use head movements and front flippers to signal the call for mating. Unlike male leatherback turtles, who can mate every year, females can only mate once every 2-3 years. The females lay eggs at chosen nesting sites that are close to the cold water of the ocean.

What is their conservation status?

The leatherback sea turtle is classified as a critically endangered species. The numbers of this species that has existed for over a million years are now dwindling and only 2300 females remain in the world today.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Fun Facts

What do leatherback sea turtles look like?

Leatherback sea turtles are a species of sea turtle that resemble other turtle species. However, the striking difference is due to their shells, which isn't like a normal shell typically associated with turtles and tortoises. Instead of being hard, the shells of leatherback turtles have a rubbery texture which feels very similar to leather. This is the reason why they are known as leatherback turtles. They have leathery skin as well.

The ability of leatherback turtles to maintain high body temperatures is legendary.

How cute are they?

Leatherback sea turtles have a large body. However, like most other turtle species, they appear incredibly cute because of their calm eyes and their gradual movement. If you keep leatherback sea turtle babies as pets, you won't have much to worry about as they are absolutely harmless creatures.

How do they communicate?

Leatherback sea turtles can communicate verbally, even though a leatherback sea turtle throat doesn't have vocal cords. Even their ears are internal. Their verbal communication with other turtles and beings in the typical leatherback sea turtle life cycle happens through a variety of hissing sounds. They can communicate non-verbally as well using diverse head movements, all of which are still not clearly understood by humans.

How big is a leatherback sea turtle?

One of the most basic leatherback sea turtle facts for kids is that a leatherback sea turtle size is absolutely huge. These marine turtles typically are 1.83 - 2.2 m long and a leatherback sea turtle weight may go up to 700 kg. Compared to olive ridleys, which are the smallest sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles are almost five times bigger.

How fast can a leatherback sea turtle move?

Leatherback sea turtles typically swims at 35 km per hour.

How much does a leatherback sea turtle weigh?

The leatherback sea turtle can weigh around 250-700 kg.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female leatherback sea turtles don't have separate names.

What would you call a baby leatherback sea turtle?

There is no specific name for a baby leatherback sea turtle.

What do they eat?

Leatherbacks feed primarily on jellyfish during their lifetime. Many also eat other soft-bodied marine organisms such as cephalopods and tunicates thanks to leatherback sea turtle teeth. Leatherback sea turtle migration is also well-known, as the turtles cover huge distances across the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Oceans in search of their preferred jellyfish species. Unfortunately, the presence of large amounts of plastic bags in the open oceans results in the turtles consuming plastic as well. As a result, their health is affected and overconsumption of plastic bags and other harmful marine debris even leads to death.

Are they dangerous?

Only jellyfish, tunicate and cephalopods are in danger from the leatherback sea turtle. This turtle doesn't have a harmful nature and doesn't pose any danger to humans. Unfortunately, it's the activities related to coastal development initiated by humans that pose a risk to their lives.

Would they make a good pet?

Turtles are unconventional pets, especially when you compare leatherbacks to commonly petted animals such as cats and dogs. However, if you'd like a calm presence around you at home, then you can definitely try and adopt some leatherbacks. If you can take proper care of the leatherbacks you adopt, you'd also be contributing to keeping one of the oldest reptile species on earth from going extinct. So if you're interested in keeping an endangered species alive, there's no reason why you shouldn't consider adopting a leatherback sea turtle (scientific name Dermochelys coriacea).

Did you know...

The leatherback sea turtle skeleton that undergoes decomposition is a called a microecosystem, this means it is consumed by a wide variety of tiny marine creatures.

What is special about the leatherback turtle?

Compared to other turtle species, the leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle on the planet. The leatherback sea turtle shell also sets it apart from other turtles as it isn't particularly hard. Instead, it is rubbery and has a texture that is similar to that of leather.

Why is the leatherback sea turtle endangered?

The leatherback sea turtle is endangered due to several reasons. As mentioned before, the unrestricted dumping of plastic waste into the oceans is interfering with leatherback sea turtle diet, leatherback sea turtle nesting, as well as leatherback sea turtle reproduction. The numbers of leatherback sea turtles are fast depleting and if steps aren't taken rapidly, there's a great possibility that the entire species will be wiped out in the near future. The high presence of plastic and other marine debris in their feeding areas leads to situations where they accidentally feed on harmful chemicals, which have the potential of immediately killing them. Human infrastructural development works across coastal areas such as the Pacific Ocean are also leading to a shortage of nesting areas, which are necessary for the females to hatch the eggs.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including sand lizard facts, or bog turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our baby turtle coloring pages.

Leatherback Sea Turtle Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Jellyfish and soft-bodied organisms such as cephalopods and tunicates.

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

550 - 1540 lb

What habitat Do they Live In?

tropical and subtropical oceans

Where Do They Live?

as far north as alaska and norway and as far south as africa's cape agulhas

How Long Were They?

1.83 - 2.2 m (6 - 7.2 ft)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Dermochelys coriacea

What Do They Look Like?

Normal turtle-like appearance but with rubbery shell, hence the name.

Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, monitor lizards, ghost crabs, raccoons, genets, coyotes, dogs, shorebirds, whales, sharks and mongooses.

What is their Conservation Status?

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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