Wild 30 years
Kemp’s Ridley turtle is also known as the Atlantic Ridley turtle as a result of their range along the east coast of North and Central America.
Females return to the same spot where they emerged as a hatchling to deposit their own eggs. Before coming ashore they wait for a number of other females and they then move to shore together helping to keep the group safe.
Their hard jaw allows them to eat hard-bodied prey such as crabs, starfish, snails along with jellyfish.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles have been experiencing a sustained decline in their population. This is a result of by-catch in fisheries, boat strikes, nest site degradation, hunting and predation.
Learn more about these reptiles by reading on below.
On their back, as in all turtles, is a hard shell. This is heart-shaped giving them a distinctive look. It is colored black, grey-brown or olive across the back with paler coloration on the underside.
On either side of the body is a pair of flippers which are used to push them through the water. The front flippers have one claw and the back flipper can have one or two claws.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the smallest of the marine turtles measuring in between 50 and 70cm (19.5 and 27.5in) long as an adult. An average adult will weigh 31.8-45.4kg (70-100lbs).
Males and females are similar in size and appearance.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles are primarily carnivorous and feed on crabs, jellyfish, starfish, snails but will occasionally feed on seaweed.
Their jaw has a large crushing surface which helps them to feed on hard-bodied animals such as crabs.
As their alternative name of Atlantic ridley turtle suggests these animals make their home in the Atlantic ocean mainly living along the coastline of North and Central America. Occasionally they will be seen along the coast of Europe.
Their range is among one of the most restricted of any sea turtles.
They make their home in coastal areas. Much of their time is spent at sea with females coming to land to lay eggs.
— AD —
Nesting takes place from April to July for the Kemp’s Ridley turtle.
Females will return to the nest site where they themselves hatched years earlier. Groups of females will gather offshore before coming onshore together. This means many of their nests will also hatch together. They are the only marine turtle species which will nest during the day.
These mass movements to the shore are known as an arribada which means “arrival” in Spanish.
It is thought that this method will overwhelm predators and allow more of the hatchlings to reach the water when they hatch.
Eggs are laid in the sand which females will dig in to with their flippers. Each female lays around 100 eggs. These incubate for 50-60 days.
After hatching the hatchlings will make their own way to the surface and then out to the water where they swim rapidly offshore. They will shelter among algae where they can rest and feed for the first 1-2 years of life.
These juveniles are colored black at hatching.
Hatchlings are able to find the ocean by moving away from the shadow of the dunes or vegetation and heading for the brightest horizon.
Sexual maturity is reached at 13 years old.
Each year populations of Kemp’s Ridley turtles undertake a migration.
As a marine reptile the Kemp’s Ridley turtle can not breathe underwater and must come to the surface often to take a breath.
Outside of the nesting season the Kemp’s Ridley turtle is solitary.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the Kemp’s Ridley turtle include foxes, weasels and racoons.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles are believed to be the rarest species of marine turtle.
A range of threats are faced by the kemp’s Ridley turtle. These include by-catch in fisheries, boat strikes, cold stunning events, harvesting, pollution and climate change. Loss and degradation of their nesting habitat can inhibit breeding.
Recent changes to the design of fishing gear has helped to reduce by-catch for this species.
Across much of their range they are afforded legal protection meaning no legal trade in this species is recognized.
Hatchlings may miss the water and head for the land as they are attracted to artificial light sources which they mistake for the horizon.
Currently around 22,000 adult Kemp’s Ridley turtles are believed to be part of the population.
This species is also known as the Atlantic Ridley Turtle.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles were named for the fisherman Richard M. Kemp who first submitted the species to be identified during 1906.
They are the smallest species of marine turtle.
Until the 1940s it was believed that the Kemp’s Ridley turtle was a hybrid of other sea turtle species. The discovery of their nesting site helped to confirm them as their own species.
Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.
Wibbels, T. & Bevan, E. 2019. Lepidochelys kempii (errata version published in 2019). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T11533A155057916. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T11533A155057916.en. Downloaded on 18 July 2021.
NOAA. 2021. Kemp’s Ridley Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/kemps-ridley-turtle> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
Oceana. 2021. Kemp’s Ridley Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://oceana.org/marine-life/sea-turtles-reptiles/kemps-ridley-turtle> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
National Wildlife Federation. 2021. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle | National Wildlife Federation. [online] Available at: <https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Reptiles/Sea-Turtles/Kemps-Ridley-Sea-Turtle> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
Conserveturtles.org. 2021. Information About Sea Turtles: Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle – Sea Turtle Conservancy. [online] Available at: <https://www.conserveturtles.org/information-about-sea-turtles-kemps-ridley-sea-turtle/> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
Seaturtlefoundation.org. 2021. Kemp’s Ridley Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://www.seaturtlefoundation.org/about/turtles/kemps-ridley/> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
Marine Bio. 2021. Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://www.marinebio.org/species/kemps-ridley-sea-turtles/lepidochelys-kempii/> [Accessed 18 July 2021].
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023