The Leatherback Turtle


Episode Info

In this episode of the BAFTA-winning Inside Nature's Giants, the team travel to Florida to dissect the ocean's largest reptile: the leatherback turtle. They uncover the evolutionary mystery of how turtles developed shells to protect themselves from some of the sharpest-toothed predators on the planet. The leatherback carcass is a two-metre long male, which died after its flipper was sliced off by a motorboat propeller. Veterinary scientist Mark Evans and comparative anatomist Joy Reidenberg join the post-mortem to explore the inner workings of this ancient mariner. As the shell is opened up, the team discovers a bizarre digestive system that processes deadly jellyfish, a double-barrelled organ sitting where the brain should be, and a remarkable organ that enables the male to mate with the female underwater. Despite the protection afforded by a shell, turtles face dramatically low odds of survival; it's thought that only one in every 10,000 eggs makes it to adulthood. Biologist Simon Watt joins conservationist Eve Haverfield on the beach to find out about the threats they face while digging out hatchlings that failed to crawl out of their nest. There he learns about the daring rescue operation that translocated 70,000 turtle eggs that were threatened by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. Meanwhile, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins tackles an interesting conundrum; did the tortoise swim into the sea to become the turtle, or did the turtle crawl onto land to become the tortoise? It's an evolutionary story filled with twists and turns.

The Leatherback Turtle Photos