Primary nesting areas for the leatherback are in northern South America and West Africa. In the U.S., small numbers of leatherbacks nest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and southern Florida.
Females dig a nest onshore, then lay 80-100 eggs. The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest. Higher temperatures produce females and lower temperatures produce males. Temperatures around 85 degrees produce a mix of both.
It takes about 2 months for the young turtles to hatch, at which time they are 2-3 inches long and weigh less than 2 ounces. The hatchlings head to the sea, where males will remain for life. Females will return to the same nesting beach where they hatched at around 6-10 years of age to lay their own eggs.