This is the largest and heaviest living species of turtle found in the world. They are the last surviving members of genus Dermochelys. Unlike regular sea turtles, this species does not have a bony carapace, but instead has a flexible layer of thick skin covering a teardrop-shaped body, which makes this species the most hydrodynamic species of turtles. They can also dive to depths lower than 4,000 feet, more than any other species of sea turtle. Also, they have the widest global distribution of any sort of reptilian species.
Female turtles travel thousands of miles after mating to their original birthing grounds, where they crawl onto the sand and lay their eggs. They dig a nest in the sand, lay their eggs in the hole, and return to the ocean. The temperature of the nest will determine the gender of the turtles that are born, and the mother designs the nest in order to ensure that there will be an even amount of males and females. The outer, cooler eggs will be males, while the eggs in the center, heated by the warmth from all the other eggs, will produce females. After about a month or month and a half, they hatch from their shells, crawl up to the surface in the night and make a mad dash for the brightest light source, which in ideal conditions is the moonlight reflecting off the water. Those that survive the trek will float out to sea, where they will remain until they reach sexual maturity. The females will then return to the spot of their birth to lay their own eggs, while the males will never return to land again.
This species is currently rated as critically endangered, mostly due to human encroachment. Many of these turtles do not survive long enough to be born, as they are taken as eggs and sold in the markets as food or aphrodisiacs. Fishermen harvest those that do survive. Some are injured in accidents with boats or are caught accidentally and cast off as by-catch. These species are threatened by human activity at all stages of their life cycle.
Several organizations have been trying to help these creatures, trying to preserve their numbers and protecting their nests from poachers. A lot of legislation that protects these species has been past in America and Mexico. Although their population is beginning to rebound, they are still critically endangered.