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Underwater Giant [Photos]: Scariest Mouth In The World Belongs To A Turtle

May 30, 2016 06:14 AM EDT
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Man rescues turtle after it gets caught in a fishing hook

This animal gives the king of jaws a run for his money.

The leatherback sea turtle might look adorable and harmless, but wait until you see what's behind that mouth.

Leatherback sea turtles might not have a set of teeth but they have esophagus filled with hundreds of sharp spines called papillae.

According to Seaturtle.org, papillae is used to trap food while excess water is expelled prior to swallowing.

Because this species feed mainly on jelly fish, the papillae also helps the leatherback sea turtle avoid being stung by its tentacles.

The sharp, pointy stalactite-like structures prevent the slippery jelly from escaping its mouth.

Aside from its prominent mouth, the turtle species also has an unusually long esophagus that extends way past its stomach and all the way to the rear. Leatherback sea turtles are omnivorous, so aside from small fishes and jellyfish, they also feed on sea plants and grasses.

A video, uploaded by Laura Castanon, who recently performed a necropsy on a loggerhead sea turtle along with her colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows a sample of an extracted esophagus with papillae.

At present, leatherback sea turtles are the largest living turtle. Full grown leatherback sea turtle has a length of 8 feet and width of 12 feet.

With a body that big, the leatherback sea turtle consumes approximately 16,000 calories a day, mostly from eating jellyfish alone, Nerdist.com said.

Unlike any other turtles, the leatherback sea turtle has a shell attached to its skeleton. According to National Marine Life Center, the bony plates lock together to form carapace, allowing the species to dive deeper than the other turtles.

With its soft shell, leatherback sea turtles cannot hide in their shell when predators come, so it uses its paddle-like flippers to swim fast to escape from its enemies.

Despite its amazingly structured digestive system, turtle backs do not have the ability to differentiate jelly fish and plastics thrown at the sea, making them vulnerable to human impacts.

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