Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
Malti: Il-fekruna s-sewda
The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is a type of marine turtle which is pelagic, i.e. it spends most of its time in open water. In fact, previous studies show that leatherback turtles have been spotted occasionally within the Mediterranean sea.
The leatherback turtle is the only extant species from the Dermocheyidae family. It is mainly distinctive from other marine turtle due to its teardrop-shape of the shell which lacks bone. Their carapace (the upper part of the shell) is characterized by seven longitudinal ridges, has no presence of scutes and it is completely covered by thick, leathery skin. The colour of this marine turtle is usually dark grey/black on the dorsal (back) side and it generally counter-shades into a lighter tone on its underside. Apart from that, in some occasion, white blotches and spots are spotted along the leatherback turtle’s body.
This type of reptile consist of scissor-like jaws and instead of teeth, it has tomium on its upper lip. The leatherback turtle also consists of backward spines situated in its throat which is useful to swallow and its food and unable the prey to escape once caught. Having said this, the leatherback turtle mainly feeds on gelatinous organisms mainly on jellyfish, and in some occasions on salps. The size of such gelatinous organisms is not important since the leatherback turtle able to consume it whether it is big or not. Furthermore, they are able feed throughout the water column from surface to great depths.
Leatherback turtles which have been caught in the Mediterranean Sea were observed to be mainly adults and are though that their origins are almost entirely from the tropics. In fact, a few number of leatherback turtles are thought to nest occasionally in Israel and on the south coast of Sicily. Furthermore, these types of marine turtles are frequently stranded on the Mediterranean coast.