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Demonstrating countershading, the turtle's underside is lightly colored.

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The entire turtle's dorsal surface is colored dark grey to black, with a scattering of white blotches and spots.The leatherback has several characteristics that distinguish it from other sea turtles.Its most notable feature is the lack of a bony carapace.coriacea is not significantly different from predicted results based on allometry.Rather than using a high resting metabolism, leatherbacks appear to take advantage of a high activity rate. coriacea discovered individuals may spend as little as 0.1% of the day resting.Dermochelys is the only extant genus of the family Dermochelyidae.

Relatives of modern leatherback turtles have existed in some form since the first true sea turtles evolved over 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

Like other sea turtles, the leatherback has flattened fore limbs adapted for swimming in the open ocean. The leatherback's flippers are the largest in proportion to its body among extant sea turtles.

Leatherback's front flippers can grow up to 2.7 m (8.9 ft) in large specimens, the largest flippers (even in comparison to its body) of any sea turtle.

Instead of scutes, it has thick, leathery skin with embedded minuscule osteoderms.

Seven distinct ridges rise from the carapace, crossing from the cranial to caudal margin of the turtle's back.

The beach of Rantau Abang in Terengganu, Malaysia, once had the largest nesting population in the world, hosting 10,000 nests per year.