New Leatherback Turtle

Linette Umbrello's blog | Created 6 years ago

Leatherback Turtles are listed as Critically Endangered, and the largest of the sea turtles measuring up to 3m. They breed in tropical waters with some animals travelling down the coast of WA to the southern ocean to feed on jelly fish. They have a unique body structure that helps them to maintain a higher body temperature than other reptiles, allowing them to endure the cold temperatures of the southern ocean. Populations of this species are threatened due to the taking of eggs for food by humans on their nesting beaches, and are accidentally caught as bycatch in commercial fisheries. They also often injest plastic bags and other waste they mistake for jelly fish.

DEC officers in the Blackwood District were alerted to a Leatherback Turtle Dermochelys coracina found tangled offshore on Saturday, and the turtle was found deceased and washed up on a beach Eagle Bay in the southwest on Monday. DEC officers rang the museum and offered it for donation. They brought it to Welshpool yesterday by Hoomen Tabarestani(DEC), where it was measured, weighed and processed for preservation of the shell and skeleton, plus genetic material, for future research.

On autopsy we ascertained that it was a juvenile male, we weighed it to 216kg. Lacerations around the proximal(front) flipper indicated it had been tangled up in something. Photos provided by a diver at the scene when it was first found showed it was caught in buoy rope. It had already died (drowned). They cut it free and it floated away, where it was beached on shore by the current. It was not alive on the beach as previously assumed.

This is the most southerly WA Museum specimen record for this species, although other observational and partial specimens are held by Bob Prince of DEC who has been researching the species and other sea turtles for over a decade.

We thank Bob Prince for his knowledge and assistance in preparing the specimen.

Measuring the carapace length of a large sea turtle
Measuring the carapace length: Claire Stevenson (Technical Officer), Salvador Gomez (Preparator) and Bob Prince (DEC)
Photo by Thomas Parkin
Image copyright of the WA Museum


Preparing to weight the the sea turtle specimen
Preparing to weight the specimen: Salvador Gomez (Preparator), Thomas Parkin (Technical Officer) and Bob Prince (DEC)
Photo by Claire Stevenson
Image copyright of the WA Museum


Preparing to weight the the sea turtle specimen
Preparing to weight the specimen: Salvador Gomez (Preparator), Thomas Parkin (Technical Officer) and Bob Prince (DEC)
Photo by Claire Stevenson
Image copyright of the WA Museum


Preparing to weight the the sea turtle specimen
Preparing to weigh the specimen: Salvador Gomez (Preparator) & Thomas Parkin (Technical Officer)
Photo by Claire Stevenson
Image copyright of the WA Museum


Weighing the sea turtle
Weighing the specimen: Salvador Gomez (Preparator) & Thomas Parkin (Technical Officer)
Photo by Claire Stevenson
Image copyright of the WA Museum


Weighing the sea turtle
Weighing the specimen: Salvador Gomez (Preparator), Thomas Parkin (Technical Officer) and Bob Prince (DEC)
Photo by Claire Stevenson
Image copyright of the WA Museum