Turtles of the Mediterranean Sea

Leatherback turtle

Known to be the largest of all sea turtles, the leatherback is also one of the biggest reptiles on earth. It is easily recognisable by its distinctive smooth and soft carapace that seems as rubbery as leather, for which it is therefore named. On top of its carapace, the ridges make its body very hydrodynamic, allowing this deep diver to reach depths over 1,000 m for up to 85 minutes.

Leatherback turtles are huge oceanic animals, reaching remarkable lengths of up to 2 metres and weights of 600 kg.

They are highly migratory species, crossing the oceans several times between breeding and feeding grounds, undertaking the longest migrations. Their distribution is therefore wide, ranging from temperate to tropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

No nesting site of leatherbacks has ever been reported in the Mediterranean Sea. However, although they are rarely sighted, their presence as visitors is regular in the basin. Individuals from the Atlantic Ocean presumably enter the Mediterranean Sea in search for food.

Sadly, once present in every ocean in the world, leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world due to human threats, such as by-catch, hunting, and collection of eggs for consumption. In the Pacific Ocean they are at risk of extinction.


  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Dermochelyidae
  • Genus: Dermochelys
  • Length : 200 cm
  • Weight: 600 kg
  • Photo credit: : U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Leatherback turtle


Cetaceans of the Mediterranean Sea

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