You can easily make distinction between Leatherback and other turtles by its physical anatomy. The temperature of its core body has been exposed to be more than a few degrees C over the ambient temperature, especially for adults into cold water. This happens because of some special features. It includes the thermal indolence of a large body, a protected coating of sub epidermal fat, latent heat-generating adipose tissue, counter current heat exchangers and a rather low icy point for lipids. The bones of the Leatherback turtle remains broadly cartilaginous, especially in adult turtles, and the variety is exceptional among the turtles showing a wide cartilage vascular system in epiphyseal regions.
All the other turtles have solid carapace, but Leatherback sea turtle has a little flexible carapace. It has no any sharp angle in between the under-belly and the carapace. It makes the Leatherback turtle seems like a barrel shaped creature. The head of it is round and unable to hide itself into its theca. The front flippers look as if a fin and they have no claws. The lack of claws is moreover a big distinguishing characteristic from the other sea turtles. Its skin is covered by an oil-saturated fat coating of connective tissue. It has a matrix of bony plates which fit together like jigsaw puzzle, forming the shell. Adult Leatherback turtles are typically ranging from 135 to 180 cm in length and it weighs about 295 to 545 kg. The larger Leatherback individuals are rare. This type of turtles has its throat ruled with spines backward-pointing, an adjustment which permits the turtle to feed expansively on jellyfish. Leatherback turtles are mainly pelagic animal.
Leatherback and it’s 2 skeletons
The Leatherback sea turtle has both external and internal skeletons. The external is classified into two parts: the upper carapace and the lower plastron. The turtle carapace is covered by a structure called scutes. The species of turtles may be categorized based on the scutes. There are 4 types of scutes: the vertebral scutes, the nuchal scute, the costal scutes, and the marginal scutes. Leatherback sea turtle has spines in its mouth. Their eyes are suitable for living underwater. Ears of them are positioned inside the turtles’ heads. Sea turtles generally have great smell sensitivity. Male and female Leatherback turtles have a few observable physical dissimilarities. Female leatherbacks also have the structure which is used for deposition of eggs called the ovipositor.
The Leatherback is a truly endangered species because of erosion and development of the beaches where the females land ashore to make their nests and lay their eggs. They were listed as endangered in 1970. Unfortunately, over the past 11 years, there has been a rapid decline of Leatherbacks from a population of about 1,350 female nesters per season to about 130-140 who have nested in the past three years. This world-wide decline is the result of over 15 years of human activity, including poaching of eggs laid by returning females, the loss of many nesting beaches to development for hotels, resorts, and private homes, and the accidental capture by shrimp and gill net fishing vessel. Leatherbacks are a global open ocean wanderer, which means they encounter every one of the many problems now facing the oceans. Declining sea turtle numbers are also possibly responsible for a population explosion of jellyfish, the Leatherbacks’ principal diet.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle today
Today, more than a hundred, hundreds of conservation organizations and tens of thousands of volunteers are determined to stem the decline of this magnificent creature but it remains very vulnerable. Despite laws passed to conserve these creatures their nests are routinely plundered for their eggs, which some still believe are aphrodisiacs. Untold numbers die from ingesting plastic bags which they confuse with jellyfish, their primary food. More die terrible drowning deaths in commercial fishing and shrimp nets which we euphemistically call “incidental catch.” We destroy their habitat, build our homes on their beaches and when we don’t see them, we ask: “Where are the turtles?”.This extraordinary animal has survived more than a hundred million generations but might not survive my generation and yours.