Flatback turtle (Natator depressus)
The flatback turtle (Natator depressus) nests exclusively along the northern coast of Australia. It gets its name from its relatively flat, smooth shell, unlike other marine turtles which have a high domed shell. The Flatback is a medium-sized marine turtle, growing to up to one meter long and weighing up to 90 kg. It is carnivorous, feeding mostly on soft-bodied prey such as sea cucumbers, soft corals, jellyfish, molluscs and prawns.
Flatback turtles are found in northern coastal areas, from Western Australia's Kimberley region to the Torres Strait extending as far south as the Tropic of Capricorn. Feeding grounds also extend to the Indonesian Archipelago and the Papua New Guinea Coast. Although flatback turtles do occur in open seas, they are common in inshore waters and bays where they feed on the soft-bottomed seabed.
Flatbacks have the smallest migratory range of any marine turtle species, though they do make long reproductive migrations of up to 1300 km. This restricted range means that the flatback is vulnerable to habitat loss, especially breeding sites. Flatbacks are caught as 'bycatch' in commercial fishing operations, getting tangled in discarded ('ghost') fishing nets and ingestion of marine debris.
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The preceding biological information on marine turtle species found around the Indian Ocean is derived partly from the NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources, website:(http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/), supplemented by other sources (such as a website of the Australian Government, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts -- for information on the Flatback turtle), and additional information supplied by Dr. Jack Frazier (IOSEA Advisory Committee Chair).
Click to view and download an attractive identification key prepared by Kélonia and Ifremer, available in English (1.2 MB) or French (1.5 MB).