The animal on the cover of VMware Cookbook is a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). At four to eight feet in length, the leatherback turtle is the fourth largest reptile, behind certain species of crocodile. Most sea turtles have bony shells; however, the leatherback’s shell is made of skin and oily flesh.
Leatherback sea turtles live as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and the southernmost tip of New Zealand. They inhabit all tropical and subtropical oceans.
The turtle’s diet consists almost entirely of jellyfish, and ecologists theorize that the turtle plays a key role in controlling jellyfish populations. Scientists also note that the leatherback turtle continues to be important to local ecosystems even after it dies: decomposing leatherback turtles often wash ashore and host various species of flies and beetles.
As with other sea turtles, leatherbacks begin their lives on land as they burst forth from the sand of their nesting beaches. Yet their lives are in danger even before they are born: birds and humans eat leatherback turtle eggs (in Malaysia, where the leatherback turtle is nearly extinct, the eggs are considered a delicacy). The danger doesn’t end, however, once leatherbacks are born: birds, crustaceans, reptiles, and people will often eat newborn turtles before they reach the water. Once they reach the sea, the turtles become prey for some species of fish and cephalopods. Given all of their predators, ...