Heart shaped carapace, its width about 80% of its length.
• Head is large and broad and takes up 25% of carapace
• Strong horny beak, thicker than other sea turtles.
• Carapace scutes are thin but very hard and rough,
often covered in barnacles.
• Five central plates or scutes.
• Fore flippers quite short and thick, each with 2 claws.
• Rear flippers have 2 or 3 claws.
• Hatchlings and juveniles have 3 keels down carapace
length formed from blunt spines
• Colour: Adults are generally evenly covered on the
top (dorsal) side.
• Top colour is reddish brown with dark streaks in South
• Orange-cream on their flanks
• Orange-cream on underside
• Hatchlings are dark-brown on top with pale brown margins
to flippers and underside
Size (cm) and body mass (kg):
n.b. All figures are FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation),
unless otherwise stated. Figures for females were assumed to
be obtained during nesting.
Normal variation in Straight Carapace Length (SCL) for a mature
81.5-105.3 cm; n=3502 ( n=number in sample)
The SCL for mature females is always over 70 cm.
World variation: figures, unless stated, are for mature females
USA (South Carolina) 84.5-103 cm: mean 92.7 cm: n=18
USA (Georgia) mean 95.9 cm: n=110
USA (Florida) 74.9-109.2 cm: mean 92 cm: n=661
USA (Broward county) mean 99.6 cm: n=1203
Mexico (Quintana) 73-109cm: mean 90.5 cm: n=423 (females)
Mexico (Quintana) 75.3-99.5 cm: mean 86.5 cm: n=39 (males)
Colombia (Buritaca) 70-102 cm: mean 87.9cm: n=77
Greece (Zakynthos) 70-93 cm:mean 81.5 cm: n=95
Greece (Kiparissa) mean 78.6 cm: 69-91 cm: n=68 (Margaritoulis,
Greece (SE Cephalonia) mean 76.6 cm: n=25 (Whitmore, C., pers.
comm via Groombridge)
Turkey (Dalyan) 55-74.6 cm (Geldiay et al., 1982) - males and
females caught at sea
Spain (Balearics) 30-65 cm: n.b. caught on longlines at sea
(Mayol & Castello Mas, 1983)
South Africa (Tongaland) 72.8-98.5 cm: mean 86.4 cm: n=1182
South Africa (Natal) 75.2-90.5 cm: mean 81.6 cm: n=13
Oman (Masirah islands) mean 91.2 cm : n=1378
Australia (Heron islands) 86-102 cm: n=?
Japan (Shikoku) 72-107.5 cm: mean 89 cm: n=118
Overall body mass in Kg:
65.7-101.4 kg: mean 75 kg: n=153
Mexico (Quintana Roo) mean 65.7 kg: n=115 (females)
Mexico (Quintana Roo) mean 101.4 kg: n=38 (males)
Mediterranean (all) mean 105 kg: n=? (females)
Greece (SE Cephalonia) mean 68 kg: 52-84 kg: n=12 (Whitmore,
C., pers. comm via Groombridge)
South Africa (Tongaland) mean 106.9 kg: n=31 (females)
South Africa (Tongaland) mean 68 kg: n=13 (males)