Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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Sea Turtles

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Description

The Dermochelys coriacea, or commonly named Leatherback Sea Turtle, derived its common name from the tough rubber skin which is strengthened by tiny bony plates, giving it a ‘leathery’ look. The D. coriacea is the only sea turtle species that does not have a hard shell, instead having a soft, tear drop shaped one, with seven dorsal ridges and no scutes. Dorsally, this species have white blotches present on top of a predominantly blue-black colour, whilst their ventral side is often a pink-white colour. A pink spot is also present on their scaleless head. The average curved carapace length of this species is approcimately one and a half meters, whilst the average weight of a D. coriacea individual is around 400kg, making them the largest member of the sea turtle species.

Diet

Due to the delicacy of the scissor like jaws which the Dermochelys coriacea species possesses, they feed almost entirely on soft-body invertebrates, such as tunicates, and more commonly, jellyfish. In order to survive, this species needs to ingest a great deal of food substances, with their daily diet including the consumption of around twice their body weight in prey species[1].

Protection status

The D. coriacea species is regarded as a vulnerable species with regards to their survival, with this species being shown to have a decreasing population trend.

Habitat

All species of Marine sea turtles can be characterised by an itinerant behaviour throughout each stage of their entire life cycle. It is believed that newly hatched young migrate away from their natal beaches and begin movements which can cover great areas, and can extend over entire ocean basins, for the next several years of their life, with their movements being entirely dependent on oceanic current systems. During the following stages of development throughout their juvenile years, turtles proceed to move depending on their specific feeding requirements, with juveniles often covering particularly large ranges during the initial pelagic phase of their development. When individuals reach the adult stage of their development, females, and likely males too, cycle between high fidelity neritic foraging habitats and their natal breeding areas in a uniform manner depending on the time of year with regards to their annual reproductive cycle.

Interesting facts

The temperature of the sand in which sea turtle eggs are laid dictates the sex of the hatchlings The pink spot on the head of D. coriacea individuals is believed to play a role in assessing sunlight, which is believed to help keep these sea turtles in rhythm with the seasons in order to help optimise feeding and mating opportunities[2]In order to keep warm, most sea turtles swim near the surface of the water column in order to optimise their contact with the sun’s rays. However, in the Eastern Pacific, individuals have been found hauling out onto the beach in order to effectively sun bathe on the beaches

 

 

 

 

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