Category of Organisms Marine Reptiles
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum/Division Chordata
Class Reptilia
Order Testudines
Family Dermochelyidae
Genus Dermochelys
Species coriacea
Binomial Name
Dermochelys coriacea
Author Vandelli, 1761
Common Name Leatherback Turtle
Local Name Penyu Belimbing
Size Range
Shell length: 150-180 cm [3]
It spend most of its life in the open sea and is capable of diving to depths of 400 to 1,200 m.
Plays an important role in the economy as a tourist attraction. Although it is illegal to harm or kill the turtle, its eggs are collected for consumption.
The metabolic rate of the Leatherback is about 4 times higher than one would expect for a reptile of its size; this, coupled with counter-current heat exchangers, the insulation provided by its oily body and large size, allow it to maintain a body temperature as much as 18 °C (32 ºF) above that of the surrounding water. Some scientists hypothesize that the leatherback might have some capacity to generate its own body heat (like a mammal), although reptiles in general have been defined as ectotherms ('cold-blooded') and are thought not to be able to do so. [1]
Endemic No
Found in Marine Park No
Found in Malaysia Yes
Historically, Malaysia was one of the five major nesting sites for leatherback turtles in the world. The leatherback turtle nests exclusively on the sandy beaches of Terengganu and Pahang, from Pulau Kerengga in Terengganu to the northern part of Pahang State. The major nesting sites are at Rantau Abang and Paka. [2]

No report about the nesting of leatherback turtle on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia as well as on Sabah and Sarawak beaches. [5]
The leatherback turtle is the largest living turtle in the world today. It can attain a carapace length of two metres and weigh 600kg. It possesses a leathery carapace with seven longitudinal ridges resembling a starfruit. [2] The body has a dark coloration with whitish patches and has a deeply notched upper jaw to help them feed.

Its shell lacks the bony scutes of other turtles, comprising mainly connective tissue. [1]
The leatherback turtle feeds mainly on slow-moving and soft-bodied organisms such as jellyfish. [2]

Leatherbacks mate at sea; males never leave the water once they enter it as hatchlings. Females mate every three or four years, returning to the beaches where they themselves hatched, to deposit their eggs. One female may lay as many as ten clutches in one breeding season. The interval between laying is about nine days. Mating occurs after the age of three years.

After encountering a female (who possibly exudes a pheromone to signal her reproductive status) the leatherback male uses head movements, nuzzling, biting or flipper movements to determine her receptiveness. Marine turtles often face a difficult and sometimes even dangerous task when attempting to reproduce. The male has to mount the female from behind and latch on in order to be able to copulate, but sometimes their shells obstruct this process. Mating can also become dangerous when the male is so desperately overeager to find a mate that he stays underwater for too long, and after encountering the female, he must spend another hour with no air. [3]

In Peninsular Malaysia nesting peak is in June and July. [2]
Status in IUCN Red List Critically Endangered (CR)
Status in CITES Species Database I
1. Dermochelys coriacea. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

2. Abdul Salam, M.N. and Sharma, D.S.K. (1999). Integrated Coastal and Estuarine Area Management. Handbook 4: Marine Turtles & Terrapins. Kuala Lumpur: WWF Malaysia

3. Ong, J.E. and Gong, W.K. (2003). The Encyclopedia of Malaysia. Vol 6: The Seas. Kuala Lumpur: Archipelago Press

4. Chua, T. E. and Charles, J.K. (1980). Coastal Resources of East Coast Peninsular Malaysia: An Assessment in Relation to Potential Oil Spills. Penang: Universiti Sains Malaysia

5. Sukarno, W. (n.d) Marine Turtle Population and Conservation in the Southeast Asia Region. Paper presented in SEAFDEC-ASEAN Regional Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation and Management, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, 26-28 July 1999
Other Link(s)
Collection Record