Did You Know?
Leatherback turtles lived on
the earth even before the
I ; Out of each one thousand
leatherback eggs that are
laid, only one turtle is
thought to reach adulthood.
Leatherbacks are endangered animals
and may become extinct. People are
the biggest threat to their survival. Other
predators are sharks and killer whales.
No one knows how long
A leatherback hatchling increases
its weight roughly 6,000 times
before it becomes an adult turtle
(people increase their weight only
about 18 times from birth to
Leatherbacks shed "tears" from
special ducts near their eyes that
help to remove excess salt from
Leatherbacks need air to
breathe; they will drown if
they get trapped under
< Leatherbacks are one of the
deepest diving air-breathing
animals in the world.
A male leatherback never
comes on land again after it
has reached the sea as a
baby hatchling. .
SHatchlings know where the sea is
by the lighter sky of the horizon. If
there is a bright light shining on
the land they can become
confused and go towards that
Educational Insert from Natural Resources Factsheet #1, Leatherback Turtles: Season of Survival-The Nesting Ritual,
UVI Cooperative Extension Service
Time to Wonder: Questions for the Classroom
Little is known about where baby leatherback hatchlings go once they reach the sea. Adult
i "- leatherbacks have been seen in northern seas (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, etc.), but
young turtles are almost never seen. Where do you think they go while they grow up?
Leatherbacks are one of the deepest diving air-breathing animals. They may reach depths
of 4,000 feet or so. Why do you think they dive so deep? How do you think their body stands
: the enormous pressure?
Scientists would like to be able to put tags on the baby hatchlings so they could get infor-
l nation on where the hatchlings go and how long it takes them to grow into adults. So far
Vi- no tag has been found that is big enough to stay on an adult but that does not hinder the
tiny hatchling. How do you think hatchlings could be tagged?
Leatherback turtles have lived on the earth for over 150 million years. This means they were
-. c"'alive before the dinosaurs existed and are one of the most successful animals to have ever
lived. In the last 200 years, their numbers have dwindled and now they are in danger of
becoming extinct. Can you think why?
,-, When leatherback eggs are laid in the sand, the sex of the undeveloped hatchling has not
& ,j been determined. It is the temperature surrounding the eggs as the hatchlings develop that
t J determines which hatchling will be male or female. If a nest is laid deep in the sand it will
experience the cooler temperatures which nurture male hatchlings. A shallower nest will be
warmer and is likely to produce more females. This makes it possible for all the hatchlings
from one nest to be of one sex. How do leatherbacks benefit from this process? Do you think
that there are equal numbers of male and female leatherback turtles?
For more information on these amazing creatures, call: The Division of Fish and Wildlife at
775-6762 (St. Thomas) or 772-1955 (St. Croix); or the University of the Virgin Islands,
Cooperative Extension Service at 778-0246 (St. Croix) or 774-0210 (St. Thomas).