Watch Leatherbacks Migrate Thousands of Kilometres to their Overwintering Grounds!
Are you following the Great Canadian Turtle Race? We’re tracking leatherback sea turtles as they journey to their wintering waters in the south!
Leatherback Seaturtles are fascinating creatures just ask your students, they probably think so too! Did you know that they have been around since the time of the dinosaurs? Or that they can boast the most extensive geographic range of any reptile?
Get your students excited about Leatherbacks. Sharing what we know about wildlife can go a long way for creatures who need our help. Ask your students what they know about Leatherback Seaturtles, and then share these facts:
- Leatherbacks can’t swim backwards.
These reptiles are unable to swim backwards, causing these turtles a lot of grief when they swim into fishing nets and lines in the ocean. Without the ability to back out of them, they can get caught in fishing gear and drown.
- Leatherbacks have hundreds of backward facing spines in their mouths.
Without pearly whites to chomp down on jellyfish, Leatherbacks rely on the two cusps on their upper and lower jaws to grab their prey. To help swallow Jellyfish, their entire esophageal tract is lined with spines that not only prevent their prey from escaping, but also shred jellyfish to pieces as they travel towards the Leatherbacks’ stomachs.
- Leatherbacks don’t have hard shells.
Leatherbacks are the only seaturtles that don’t have hard shells; instead they’re equipped with leathery skinned shells (hence their name!). Their shells made up of a thick layer or oil-saturatated fat, tiny plates, and connective tissue; they can grow over two metres in length.
- Leatherbacks have a gland on their foreheads that help them navigate.
Researchers are learning more and more about these remarkable pineal glands, and are finding that Leatherbacks can thank this soft cover for helping them navigate. Acting as a kind of skylight, the pink spot on the top of their forehead allows sunlight to beam directly into the pineal gland, helping them to keep in sync with the seasons, and to know when to migrate north for food and south to mate. Moreover, this pink spot atop every Leatherback’s head, is unique to each, individual turtle just like a human fingerprint.
- Leatherbacks are the largest of all seaturtles.
When they hatch, Leatherbacks weigh approximately 45 grams and their carapace ranges between 50 and 75 millimetres in length. Although mature Leatherbacks can weigh more than 900 kilograms and have carapace lengths longer than two metres, the average weight of Leatherbacks documented in Atlantic Canadian waters is 392 kilograms, and the average carapace length is 148 centimetres.
If your group enjoys these Leatherback facts, be sure to follow the Great Canadian Turtle Race. Check in at TurtleRace.ca for weekly updates that include colorful maps and charts so you can your students can easily monitor the migrating leatherbacks’ progress. Order a free turtle posterfor your group and find more information and resources for educators on Leatherback Seaturtles.
We want to thank you and your classroom for caring about Leatherback Seaturtles and following the race.
The CWF Education Team