EPBC Act Status and Documents - Natator depressus — Flatback Turtle
Marine turtles are also protected under state and Northern Territory legislation. Please refer to the relevant state/Northern Territory Department website for further information.
Distribution and habitats
The flatback turtle is endemic to Australia and all known breeding sites of this species occur only in Australia.
They feed in the northern coastal regions of Australia, extending as far south as the Tropic of Capricorn. Their feeding grounds also extend to the Indonesian archipelago and the Papua New Guinea coast.
Flatback turtles have a preference for shallow, soft-bottomed sea bed habitats away from reefs.
Breeding areas and nesting seasons
Flatback turtles nest on inshore islands and the mainland from Mon Repos in southern Queensland to Exmouth in northern Western Australia. There are four major nesting areas in Australia, representing four genetic breeding stocks.
On the east coast of Queensland, flatback turtles nest from Mon Repos in the south to Herald Island near Townsville in the north. Major rookeries include four islands on the inner shelf of the southern Great Barrier Reef, Peak, Wild Duck, Avoid and Curtis Islands. Nesting activity reaches a peak between late November and early December, and ceases by late January. Hatchlings emerge from nests from late December until about late March, with most hatching during February.
The largest nesting concentration of flatback turtles is in the north-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria and western Torres Strait. Other rookeries in the Gulf of Carpentaria are in the Wellesley Islands and the Western Gulf of Carpentaria. This population of flatback turtles nests all year round, but there is a peak of nesting activity in mid year.
In the western Northern Territory (and possibly eastern Kimberley) there is a mid-winter peak nesting season and low density summer nesting.
In the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia, from approximately the Lacepede Islands to Exmouth, there is a mid-summer peak nesting season.
The flatback turtle is carnivorous, feeding mostly on soft bodied prey such as sea cucumbers, soft corals and jellyfish. They feed mainly in subtidal, soft-bottomed habitats.
Flatback turtle carapace
- 4 pairs or more of large scales on either side (costal scales) of the carapace
- Non-overlapping carapace scales
- Carapace low domed with upturned edges
- Colour olive grey
- Adult carapace approximately 0.9 metres