Leatherback turtles are carnivores that feed in the open ocean. Their main prey are gelatinous invertebrates, mainly jellyfish and salps. They are known to eat other kinds of food though, including small crustaceans and fish (possibly symbiotes with jellies), cephalopods, sea urchins, and snails.
Leatherbacks do not have the powerful muscles and hard crushing jaw apparatus that some other sea turtles have for eat hard-shelled prey. Instead they have sharp-edged jaws for biting soft-bodied prey. The esophagus in this species is lined with short spines that point downstream, preventing jellies from escaping once swallowed.
Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; echinoderms; cnidarians; zooplankton
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats other marine invertebrates)
- Houghton, J., T. Doyle, M. Wilson, J. Davenport, G. Hays. 2006. Jellyfish aggregations and leatherback turtle foraging patterns in a temperate coastal environment. Ecology, 87/8: 1967-1972.
- Caut, S., E. Guirlet, P. Jouquet, M. Girondot. 2006. Influence of nest location and yolkless eggs on the hatching success of leatherback turtle clutches in French Guiana.. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 84(6): 908-916.