Dermochelys coriacea

by Deasy Lontoh and Fitryanti Pakiding

06 Sep 2022

Published on 21 March was a review of the literature and overview of the contemporary use of aquatic megafauna (cetaceans, sirenians, chelonians, and crocodylians) in the global tropics and subtropics, for 37 species listed on the Appendices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

22 Mar 2022

Bonn, 7 March 2019 - the global ban on the international trade of marine turtles and their products under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

07 Mar 2019

At the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) held last year in Dubai, Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands passed a resolution titled: The enhanced conservation of coastal marine turtle habitats and the designation of key areas as Ramsar Sites. Five out of seven species of marine turtles are endangered, three of them being critically endangered, according to the endangered species list of the IUCN. One of the main threats to the animals is the degradation of the nesting habitats on the coast, where female turtles lay their eggs and where turtle hatchlings start their lifetime journeys.

28 Jan 2019

The 2nd meeting of the Northern Indian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force (NIO-MTTF) established by the CMS IOSEA Marine Turtle MOU took place 29-30 January hosted by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka in Colombo. Opened by Secretary Douglas Nanayakkara of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, the meeting’s main aim was to reach agreement on concerted regional actions to conserve marine turtles.

30 Jan 2018

Individuals and organizations engaged in marine turtle conservation work outside of the United States and its territories again have the opportunity to apply for a grant from the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund (MTCF).

04 Jan 2018

The 7th Meeting of the Task Force took place on 2 November 2017 in Dar es Salaam, as a Special Session of the WIOMSA Scientific Symposium. The morning session was an open session to share information on current sea turtle research, conservation and management initiatives in the WIO region. In the afternoon the 7th Meeting of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force (WIO MTTF) was held. Members from Comoros, Kenya, France, South Africa and Tanzania, as well as the Secretariat of the IOSEA MOU, attended.

09 Nov 2017

The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest turtle and the largest living reptile in the world. Mature males and females can grow to 2 m in total length and weigh almost 900 kg, although individuals of this large size seem to be rare today. Females lay clutches of approximately 100 eggs, including many abnormally small, "yolkless" eggs.  Like all other marine turtles they use sandy, beaches, but unlike other marine turtles, leatherbacks can nest on both tropical and subtropical beaches. They nest several times during a nesting season; there are records of some individuals nesting as many as 7, 8, or 9 times in a single season.

The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell: there are no large external keratinous scutes and the underlying bony shell is composed of a mosaic of hundreds of tiny bones. Adults are capable of tolerating water temperatures well below tropical and subtropical conditions, and special physiological adaptations allow them to maintain body temperature above cool water temperatures.  In subtemperate areas they can maintain internal body temperature up to 17 degrees above ambient water temperature. 

The leatherback's beak is unique in having a conspicuous cusp on either side of the upper jaw.  They specialise on soft bodied invertebrates found in the water column, particularly jelly fish and other sorts of “jellies.”   

The leatherback is the most wide ranging marine turtle species.  Animals regularly migrate enormous distances, crossing ocean basins, or even moving between ocean basins, such as between the Indian and south Atlantic Oceans. They are commonly found in pelagic areas, but they also forage in coastal waters in certain areas.  The distribution and developmental habitats of juvenile leatherbacks are poorly understood. While the leatherback is not as common in the Indian Ocean as other species, important nesting populations are found in and around the Indian Ocean, including in Indonesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  The leatherback's markedly oceanic habits make it especially subject to interactions with modern high seas fisheries, particularly longlines.

For more information on the conservation status of leatherback turtles in and around the Indian Ocean, please consult the IOSEA Leatherback Species Assessment.

The preceding biological information on marine turtle species found around the Indian Ocean is derived partly from the NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources, website:(, supplemented by other sources (such as a website of the Australian Government, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts -- for information on the Flatback turtle), and additional information supplied by Dr. Jack Frazier (IOSEA Advisory Committee Chair). 


Assessment information
CMS InstrumentsCMS, IOSEA Marine Turtles, Atlantic Turtles
IUCN StatusVulnerable
Date of entry in Appendix I1979
Date of entry in Appendix II1979
Geographic range
Countries Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Türkiye, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen
Common names
EnglishLeatherback Turtle, Leathery Turtle
FrenchTortue Luth
SpanishTortuga laúd
Scientific name Dermochelys coriacea
Author(Vandelli, 1761)
Standard referenceEckert, K.L., Bjorndal, K.A., Abreu-Grobois, F.A. and Donnelly, M. (Eds) (1999). Research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Publication No.4.
Other details
Additional notesIn Effect 7/1/1999

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