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What is the largest sea turtle?

The leatherback is the largest living sea turtle.

Leatherback turtle consuming a jellyfish

Leatherback turtle consuming a jellyfish off Cape Cod. (NMFS Permit #1557-03).

Weighing in at between 550 and 2,000 pounds with lengths of up to six feet, the leatherback is a big turtle! Leatherback sea turtles can be distinguished from other species of sea turtle by its lack of a hard shell or scales. Instead, leatherbacks are covered with a firm, rubbery skin.

You can find leatherback sea turtles as far north as Canada and the northern Pacific Ocean. They tend to nest in the tropics, however. Within the United States, the leatherback is known to nest in southeast Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The leatherback sea turtle feeds primarily on jellyfish.

The U.S. federal government has listed the leatherback as endangered worldwide. Primary threats to the turtles include incidental take in commercial fisheries and marine pollution, as well as the harvest of eggs.

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Last updated: 01/20/23
Author: NOAA
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