The male leatherback turtles will migrate just offshore a common nesting beach generally before nesting season begins. There they will try and mate with as many females as possible. Also, studies have shown that the males will return to the same nesting beach if they were successful in the previous season.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Leatherback sea turtles mate in the water, just offshore from the females' desired nesting beach. The female then swims ashore at night to nest and will produce a clutch of usually 50 - 170 eggs. However, a large percentage of those eggs are yolkless and will not develop further. The female will lay her eggs and then cover the nest with sand to discourage predation and moderate the temperature and humidity around the eggs. After the female has completed this process she will returns to the ocean. Male leatherback sea turtles never swim to shore and have no part in the nesting process.
Breeding interval: Leatherback Sea Turtles will lay about 5 to 7 nests per year, renesting every 9 to 10 days. Also, they will return to the same nesting location every 2 to 3 years.
Breeding season: They generally reproduce between the months of April and November.
Range number of offspring: 50 to 70.
Range gestation period: 55 to 75 days.
Average time to independence: immediate (no parental investment past egg-laying) minutes.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 to 21 years.
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous
Average number of offspring: 105.
The only parental investment that occurs with leatherback sea turtles is when the female lays eggs on the shore and covers her nest after laying the eggs. No subsequent parental care occurs.
Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)
- Barbour, R., C. Ernst. 1972. Turtles of the United States. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.
- Beacham, W., F. Castronova, S. Sessine. 2000. Beacham's Guide to the Endangered Species of North America, volume 1: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed August 22, 2007 at http://www.gale.com/eBooks.
- Eckert, S., M. James, R. Myers. 2005. Migratory and reproductive movements of male leatherback turtles. Marine Biology, 147(4): 845.
- Zug, G., J. Parham. 1996. Age and Growth in Leatherback Turtles, Dermochelys coriacea (Testudines: Dermochelyidae): A Skeletochronological Analysis. Chelion Conservation and Biology: Journal of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and international bulletin of chelonian research, 2: 244-249.