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Natural UAE

Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Family Dermochelyidae

Description: Leatherback turtles are the giants among turtles. The largest on record is reputed to have weighed nearly 1,000 kilograms and to have measured an astonishing 3 metres in length. Most are substantially smaller than this, weighing perhaps 400 kilograms. They are unusual turtles, placed in their own family. They do not have plates like other turtles, but a soft skin covering the shell with seven prominent ridges running the length of the carapace. They are mostly black with scattered white markings. The large smooth head on a thick, short neck has a rounded beak with two cusps at the end of the upper jaw. Their huge nests and deep tracks have not been recorded in the UAE.

Habitat: Leatherbacks are truly pelagic, avoiding coral reefs and coastal areas much of the time. They feed almost exclusively on jelly fish and planktonic organisms such as sea squirts, in the open ocean. Nesting sites elsewhere in the world are on steep beaches with deep sand, often in areas of heavy surf with deep water close to shore.

Range: Leatherbacks are known only from a few sightings in the UAE, which were made near Dubai in the Arabian Gulf. It is likely that they may also occur off the east coast, in the Gulf of Oman.

Comments: Fishermen of the UAE claim to see leatherback turtles from time to time in the Arabian Gulf. Worldwide they are known to travel great distances, and have even been found within the Arctic circle. One individual was found in open ocean a remarkable 6,800kms from the nesting site at which it had previously been tagged.

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