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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Flatback Sea Turtle Natator depressus

Named after its carapace, which is only slightly domed, the flatback sea turtle has the most restricted distribution of any marine turtle. It lives in shallow waters between northern Australia and New Guinea, reaching south along the Great Barrier Reef. When adult, it is largely carnivorous, feeding on fish and bottom-dwelling animals such as mollusks and sea squirts.

Despite their restricted range, adult flatbacks may swim over 600 miles (1,000 km) to reach nesting beaches. Females dig an average of three nests each time they breed and lay a total of about 150 eggs. The young feed at the surface on planktonic animals. Instead of dispersing into deep oceanic water, like the young of other turtle species, flatback turtles remain in the shallows over the continental shelf.

Threats to Flatback Turtles

Although it is illegal to intentionally kill the Australian Flatback sea turtle, coastal pollution and habitat degradation continue to be major threats to its survival. Flatbacks also face natural threats such as predation by saltwater crocodiles, dingos, foxes, rats and other animals that feed on sea turtle eggs and hatchlings.

The flatback is listed as “data deficient” on the IUCN Red List because there isn't enough information known about its status and population trends to warrant further classification.

What Oceana Does to Protect Flatback Turtles

Oceana's campaign to save sea turtles is dedicated to the protection and restoration of sea turtle populations in the world's oceans. The campaign works to reduce sea turtle bycatch in fisheries, protect sea turtle habitat and develop legislation to protect sea turtles.

Flatback Turtle Hatchlingzoom image
  • Order Chelonia
  • Length 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m)
  • Weight Up to 190 lb (85 kg)
  • Habitat Coasts, shallows
  • Distribution North and northeastern Australia, New Guinea, Arafura Sea
Flatback Turtle Habitat Mapzoom image