If a leathery turtle were to enter the sewers, under the radioactive rays, it would hardly become a ninja turtle, more likely a tortoise-invalid, if only because it was deprived of nature by a bone shell. However, among her normal counterparts, she is a champion, certainly in size, and at the same time the fastest of them. So fast that she set a Guinness record among reptiles. The educational Disgusting Men talks about the most adorable and diabolical tortoise in the world.
In 1988, one such turtle (or rather, its corpse) was thrown in a wave on the coast of England. The size of the carcass was truly amazing: the length of the turtle was almost three meters. As scientists later found out, this turtle lived for about a hundred years. That is, she found the time of Jack the Ripper and the abolition of slavery in Brazil, although it hardly worried her. The weight of a dead animal just did not reach a ton and was equal to 941 kilograms. If a man tried to imitate her, he would probably look like Carol Jager – the fattest woman in the world who lost only 200 kilograms of reptiles.
Now the embalmed scarecrow of this monster is exhibited at the Cardiff National Museum, and, according to zoologists, it still remains a model of the largest tortoise in the world. On average, leathery turtles weigh 700 kilograms and reach a length of two meters, while they manage to be the fastest reptiles in the world (although alligators can argue with them). Just imagine how this massive monster develops a speed of 35 kilometers per hour! If such a turtle competed in speed with a hare, as in Aesop’s fable, then the hare would drown, because leathery turtles reach such speed only in water, thanks to fins that grow to two and a half meters. Because of this, leathery turtles resemble birds under water with a huge wingspan.
The strangest feature of this species is that it does not carry a shell on its back. Rather, a shell is called something that only remotely resembles it – osteoderms – bone plates implanted into the skin. It’s like Batman’s new costume in The Dark Knight: independent sections that together form armor. Naturally, such a bizarre mutation did not appear immediately, but survived after 110 million years. Strictly speaking, leatherback turtles belong to a completely different evolutionary branch than all the others. Their species lived during the time of the dinosaurs and is very close to another family called Protostegidae. Representatives of the latter have died out long ago, but their images are very reminiscent of ancient reptiles. So, looking at leathery turtles, you are essentially peeping through a keyhole in the Cretaceous.
And the legacy of that period looks very creepy. A leathery turtle has no teeth, its mouth is crowned by a beak remotely resembling a bird’s, but the pharynx and esophagus are dotted with sharp spikes, due to which the food, crushed, passes into the stomach. This devilish construction, upon closer inspection, looks worse than the Sarlak pit.
Leather turtles feed mainly on jellyfish, so no intelligent organism has to suffer in this long corridor of torture. The turtles themselves suffer more because of the ubiquitous expansion of humans. The oceans are increasingly clogged by people thrown plastic bags. Under the water, shining through and refracting the sun’s rays, they look exactly like floating jellyfish. Turtles fall for this trick and swallow them, but artificial material, tearing in the esophagus, enters the stomach and slows digestion. Late receipt of nutrients slows the maturation of turtles, thereby reducing the frequency of reproductive cycles, and sometimes kills them.
Given that in Thailand and Malaysia the eggs of leatherback turtles are considered a delicacy, because it is difficult to get them (laying sometimes goes underground for many meters), the population of these rare reptiles decreases with a geometric progression. And, perhaps, relatives of the dinosaurs that survived the meteorite’s fall will disappear at the hands of wise monkeys.
To prevent this, various volunteer organizations monitor the brood of leathery turtles, and it looks very nice.