Flatback sea turtle - Natator depressus

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Scientific Name Natator depressus
Author (Garman, 1880)
Taxonomic Rank Species
Taxonomic # 949133
Common Names English: Flatback Sea Turtle
Current Standing valid
Taxonomic Parents Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
      Class: Reptilia
        Order: Testudines
          Suborder: Cryptodira
            Superfamily: Chelonioidea
              Family: Cheloniidae
                Subfamily: Cheloniinae
                  Genus: Natator
Taxonomic Children
Synonyms (since 1950)

Taxonomic data is courtesy of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
See ITIS metadata in XML

Physical Description / Field Identification

Flatback turtles measure approximately 90 cm as adults and can be distinguished by their flattened carapace. They are olive grey and have four costal scutes with thick, overlapping carapace scales. Females are larger than males and have a shorter tail.

Can be Confused With

Flatbacks can be distinguished by their flattened shells.


Flatback turtles are tropical, found only in the coastal waters surrounding Australia. Their range extends from northern Western Australia to Mon Repos, Queensland. They are rarely found in the open sea.

Ecology and Behavior

Nesting peaks in November and December, with mating occurring in the waters surrounding nesting beaches. The flatback may be the only sea turtle that does not have an early pelagic stage; hatchlings probably stay within tens or hundreds of kilometers of natal beaches, where they inhabit protected coastal areas.

Feeding and Prey

Flatback turtles are carnivorous with diets dominated by invertebrates, feeding in shallow, turbid inshore waters between five and twenty meters in depth. Their diet is poorly documented, but is known to include sea cucumbers, prawns, jellyfish, sea pens, soft corals, mollusks, bryozoans, and other invertebrates. The diet of hatchlings remains unknown.

Adult flatbacks seize their prey species, which include Janthina sp. and Porpina sp.

Threats and Status

The main threats for flatbacks include harvest of eggs and fisheries bycatch. The flatback turtle is listed as “data deficient” by the IUCN; there is not enough information regarding the species to categorize its conservation status. The Australian government considers the species “vulnerable”, and has protected it with the exception of aboriginal harvest. The limited range of the flatback makes it vulnerable to catastrophic events. The flesh of the flatback is not palatable, but the eggs are collected as food. This species’ nesting beaches are very isolated, affording the flatback some natural protection.



Ernst, C.H. and R.W. Barbour. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Lutz, P.L. and J.A. Musick (Eds). 1997. The Biology of Sea Turtles. CRC Press LLC, New York, NY.

ITIS TSN949133
Status - ESA, U.S. FWS
Status - Red List, IUCN
    DD (Global)
#records (spatial)46,157
#records (non-spatial)0
Year1986 - 2017
Latitude-39.68 - -9.19
Longitude87.62 - 176.95
See metadata in static HTML