Critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are heading north for dinner! These massive creatures, the largest of the living sea turtles, don’t mind traveling great distances in the open ocean to feast on the increasing number of jellyfish in the waters of the United Kingdom. Jellyfish are the main staple of the leatherback sea turtle diet. The record number of jellyfish in the seas surrounding the British Isles has led to a record number of leatherback sea turtle sightings this year. The non-stinging barrel jellyfish, commonly found in British waters, can grow to over three feet across and weigh up to 88 pounds! (1 meter across & 40 kilos) I wonder if that’s just a little mid-morning snack for a male leatherback sea turtle, who can grow to over 8 feet in length and weigh nearly one ton.
There is a wonderful news story on these endangered leatherback sea turtles (and prey) at channel4.com. It comes complete with a really interesting video from London’s Independent Channel 4 News Science Correspondent Tom Clare. You’ll definitely want to check it out!
For more information, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has an educational leatherback sea turtle fact sheet. The fact sheet includes the description, range, and habitat of the leatherback sea turtle, along with other interesting information, including the following section on their current status: “Reasons For Current Status: The crash of the Pacific leatherback population, once the world’s largest population, is believed primarily to be the result of exploitation by humans for the eggs and meat, as well as incidental take in numerous commercial fisheries of the Pacific. Other factors threatening leatherbacks globally include loss or degradation of nesting habitat from coastal development; disorientation of hatchlings by beachfront lighting; excessive nest predation by native and non-native predators; degradation of foraging habitat; marine pollution and debris; and watercraft strikes.”
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