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Information About Sea Turtles: Flatback Sea Turtle

Sea Turtles: Flatback

Common Name: Australian flatback - named because its shell is very flat.

Scientific Name: Natator depressus

Description: Head has a single pair of prefrontal scales (scales in front of its eyes). Carapace is bony without ridges and has large, non-overlapping, scutes (scales) present with only 4 lateral scutes. Carapace is oval or round and body is very flat. Flippers have 1 claw. Edge of carapace is folded and covered by thin, non-overlapping waxy scutes. Carapace is olive-grey with pale brown/yellow tones on margins and the flippers creamy white. The scutes of the hatchlings form a unique dark-grey reticulate pattern, and the center of each scute is olive colored.

Size: Adults measure up to 3.25 feet in carapace length (99 cm).

Weight: Adults weigh an average of 198 pounds (90 kg).

Diet: Apparently eats sea cucumbers, jellyfish, mollusks, prawns, bryozoans, other invertebrates and seaweed.

Habitat: Prefer turbid inshore waters, bays, coastal coral reef and grassy shallows.

Nesting: Nests 4 times per season. Lays an average of 50 eggs at time, but these are comparatively quite large. The eggs incubate for about 55 days. When the hatchlings emerge, they are larger than most species.

Range: Very limited. It is found only in the waters around Australia and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.

Status: Australia - Listed as Vulnerable under the Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act. International - Listed as Data Deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Was previously listed as vulnerable. Change in classification does not imply species recovery, it just indicates a lack of recent research into their abundance and distribution.

Threats to Survival: Sea turtles are threatened with capture, harvesting of eggs, destruction of nesting beaches, ocean pollution, oil spills and entanglement in fishing and shrimp nets.

Population Estimate*: Between 20,000 and 21,000 nesting females.

Nesting Sites:

Nesting site locations and classification are based on several sources: Sea Turtles - A Complete Guide to Thier Biology, Behavior, and Conservation by James Spotila, 2004; The Worldwide Distribution of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches, Center for Marine Conservation, 1981; and from SWOT.

* Please understand that world wide population numbers for sea turtle species do not exist and that these are estimates of the number of nesting females based on nesting beach monitoring reports and publications from 2004.

Photo Credits: Sea turtle images by Kellie Pendoley

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Gainesville, FL 32609
Phone: 352-373-6441
Fax: 352-375-2449
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