Flatback turtle (Natator depressus)

Flatback turtle
A flatback turtle returns to sea after nesting on Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia. (Photo: Calen Offield)

Status: Data Deficient

Basic Info: The flatback is the least studied of the sea turtles and has one of the smallest geographic ranges. The only endemic sea turtle species, flatbacks nest solely along the northern coast of Australia, and live solely on the continental shelf between Australia, southern Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Distribution: Nesting only on northern coast of Australia; all life stages occur on continental shelf north of Australian continent.

Adults: Length 80-95 cm; mass up to 100 kg
Hatchlings: Length approximately 45 mm; mass approximately 40 g

For all life stages, mostly benthic invertebrates (crabs, other crustaceans, and mollusks) and sometimes jellies

* Reproduce every 2-4 years
* Lay 2-3 clutches of eggs per season
* Lay 50-70 eggs per clutch
* Billiard ball size eggs weigh 70-80 grams
* Incubation period approximately 60 days long

* For a long time, flatbacks were thought to be a type of green turtle, but were finally described as a separate species in 1988
* Flatbacks have the largest eggs and hatchlings relative to their adult body size of all sea turtles
* Flatbacks have a unique physiology that allows them to stay active underwater for longer periods than most other species
* Over much of their nesting range they are predated upon by saltwater crocodiles, which have also been know to attack human beings. Because of this, there are virtually no underwater photos of adults taken in the wild.

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