Monday, April 18, 2016

Giant Leatherback Turtle Surprises Whale Watchers

...On the Whale Watching vessel San Mateo out of Dana Wharf in California, the whale watching crew came upon a giant Leatherback Turtle. The turtle ... first looked like a sea monster to the crew. It surfaced and was dragging a huge string of kelp. 

The crew member Jason Kunewa who recognized it as a turtle as it came closer to the boat realized the kelp was wrapped around its left flipper and neck. He quickly got his GoPro and a knife and jumped in the water, Jason reported that the leatherback turtle was a long as him but must have weighed close to 700 lbs... Capt Bo Daniel assisted Jason from the deck. Due to the heroic efforts of Kunewa, he was quickly able to cut it free as you will see in this video The leatherback turtle quickly swam free out of sight. Jason rescued a “HONU” and we are so proud that he works for us and cares so deeply about Mother Earth.

Edited from a post.

From NOAA's Kid's Times:  
Size of leatherback turtle. Photo credit:
Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland 
Leatherbacks are the largest of the sea turtles. Adult leatherback turtles are 4-8 feet long and weigh 650-1,300 lbs. They are mostly black on top with white and pink spots on the head, neck, and carapace. The plastron is mottled with pink, white and black. They have two tooth-like cusps on either side of the upper jaw. Leatherback hatchlings are 2-3 inches in length with fore flippers as long as their bodies and unique white striping along the ridges of their backs.

Because leatherbacks are such strong swimmers, they are able to make long distance migrations across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans from their feeding grounds to their nesting beaches. Leatherback turtles are regularly found much further north than other sea turtle species. As cold-blooded reptiles, a leatherback turtle’s body temperature should be the same as the temperature of the water, but they have been reported in water temperatures below 43°F. No other reptile has ever been known to remain active at such a low temperature. Due to their large size and a special characteristic of their circulatory system, leatherbacks are able to conserve body heat and survive in cooler water temperatures.

Jellyfish are a leatherback turtle's favorite food.
C. Coimbra photo
Leatherback turtles love jellyfish! It seems very unlikely that such a large turtle would eat something so small that consists mainly of water, but they eat tons of them. Leatherbacks also eat sea squirts and other soft-bodied animals. They have scissor-like jaws and a mouth lined with stiff spines that point backwards to help them swallow their soft prey.

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