Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) esophagi. *Shudders*
I want to tell you about how my nightmares from now on will have me stuck in a room made out of Leatherback esophagi, but the conservationist in me wins:
Leatherbacks feed almost entirely on Jellyfish. Plastic bags floating in the water look like jellyfish. I can attest to this - having flapped in panic out of the way of a plastic bag on a dive, only to realise what it was, and check to see if any other divers saw my mistake, and then pick up the bag.
Now imagine a plastic bag caught on those spines. That’s not going to dislodge easily. No, it’s more likely to cause suffocation and starvation. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not our nightmare. It’s theirs. And it’s come true.
Peek inside a Leatherback Turtle’s (Dermochelys coriacea) mouth: How to eat jelly fish when your mouth is an exquisitely evolved jellyfish deathbed.
We know turtles like to eat jellyfish, and the Leatherback likes them most of all. However, this is the biggest turtle, consuming a prey that extremely low nutritional value, therefore it has to nom on a lot of them. As it does so, it takes in saltwater as well. The jellies and the saltwater get stored in the esophagus.
What happens next you ask? Is it to do with the horrific looking backwards facing spines that don’t look comfortable in anything’s mouth?
But of course! Because that is the beauty of evolution, the refined logic of adaptation.
The muscles of the esophagus squeeze the seawater out of the mouth and the spines, which get progressively larger down the esophagus, hold the jellyfish in place. Once all the water is gone, the jellies are passed into the stomach.
This is one of the many *awesome* characteristics of the leatherback turtle - trawling for jellyfish on this earth for over 90 million year.
Trawling for fish/shrimp (by humans, not leatherbacks), is one of the reasons Leatherbacks are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
Source: Evolution FB
Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
by National Geo staff
Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing up to 7 ft (2 m) long and exceeding 2,000 lbs (900 kg). These reptilian relics are the only remaining representatives of a family of turtles that traces its evolutionary roots back more than 100 million years. Once prevalent in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic, the leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world.
While all other sea turtles have hard, bony shells, the inky-blue carapace of the leatherback is somewhat flexible and almost rubbery to the touch. Ridges along the carapace help give it a more hydrodynamic structure. Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 4,200 ft (1,280 m)—deeper than any other turtle—and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.
Leatherbacks have the widest global distribution of all reptile species, and possibly of any vertebrate. They can be found in the tropic and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Adult leatherbacks also traverse as far north as Canada and Norway and as far south as New Zealand and South America.
Unlike their reptilian relatives, leatherbacks are able to maintain warm body temperatures in cold water by using a unique set of adaptations that allows them to both generate and retain body heat. These adaptations include large body size, changes in swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat (click here)…
(read more: National Geo) (photo: Brian Skerry)
Habitat for Leatherback Sea Turtles
Endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles now have nearly 42,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean to call their own. Thanks to a decision in January 2012 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, these magnificent reptiles will now be safeguarded off the U.S. West Coast.
The new rule establishes critical habitat in areas where leatherbacks feed on jellyfish after swimming 6,000 miles across the ocean from Indonesia. This is the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks designated in continental U.S. waters and is the largest area set aside to protect sea turtle habitat in the United States or its territories.
(photo: ZA Photos)
“The U.S. federal government has designated 108,556 square kilometers (41,914 square miles) as critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle……”
Click through for source—>
Leatherback sea turtle camouflaging nest in Suriname. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs.
I used to run this hatchery, though it’s stopped collecting eggs and the project now focuses on awareness. We only had green and hawksbill nests, you get to learn the difference.
The top hatchling is a Green, the bottom a Hawksbill. Notice the difference in size and colouring.
A Leatherback hatchling looks completely different, but fitting since Leatherbacks are a different Family to other extant turtles.
The other species of turtle I’m not as familiar with, so I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert!
This one, not so much with the right! Handle them with care guys…..critically endangered species and all. Only from the sides of the shell. And stick to one at a time…
The one on the right, she’s doing it right.
he fact that leatherback turtles swim thousands of miles is driven home beautifully in this new map of their sophisticated, ocean-spanning movements. Between 2000 and 2007, biologists attached GPS transmitters to 126 leatherbacks nesting in Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
These individuals represent one of three remaining subpopulations of the endangered turtle, which can reach lengths of 6 feet and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. The map resulting resulting from the transmissions, published in the July Ecosphere, shows creatures that don’t just drift in instinctive obedience to migratory impulse. The leatherbacks navigated in time with season and temperature and current, visiting eddies and boundaries and blooms. They demonstrated the sophistication and pickiness of a savvy grocery-store shopper, except their store covers a tenth of Earth’s surface.
For scientists, the findings will inform conservation programs and emphasize the need for international-level cooperation. For everyone else, they reinforce just how amazing these creatures are.