ANIMAL: Kemp’s Ridley/Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle Lepidochelys kempii Type of Animal: Sea Turtle Habitat: Adults/subadults found in nearshore/inshore/shallow/coastal waters w/ muddy/sandy bottoms, shallow coastal bays, shallow coastal lagoons, shallow estuaries, open sea/ocean, & gulf waters, nesting females utilize beaches/shores-often backed up by extensive swamps/large bodies of open water (red mangrove shorelines also popular), babies/juveniles found in areas w/ floating sargassum algae & open ocean/sea, doesn’t dive deeper than 160 ft Location(s): Adults found in Gulf of Mexico & occasionally nearby. Juveniles/subadults/young adults found in Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland/Quebec as far S as Cameroon & seen in W Mediterranean. Vagrants almost always juveniles/subadults/young adults. 95% of population nests along coast of Mexican state of Tamaulipas-primary nesting site being Rancho Nuevo. Veracruz, Mexico & Padre Island National Seashore in Texas also have significant nesting beaches. Others nest throughout Gulf of Mexico & in Florida & Carolinas. Historically nested throughout Gulf of Mexico. Appearance: Smallest of all sea turtles, adults have wide long oval olive-gray to green-gray carapace (upper shell) & white or yellow-green plastron (bottom shell), hatchlings dark purple to charcoal gray, triangular-shaped head w/ somewhat hooked beak, males have longer thicker tails & larger curved foreflippers Food/Diet: Crustaceans, mollusks, jellyfish, fish, sea stars, aquatic vegetation, seaweed, algae, sea urchins, carrion, discarded bycatch Status in Wild: Critically Endangered Conservation: Protection/close monitoring of nesting sites-turtle protection camps, hatchling release programs, breeding in aquariums/zoos/marine parks, Lifestyle: Males solitary, females solitary or found in groups of hundreds or thousands especially at nesting sites-1 historical arribada (Spanish for “arrival by sea”) in Tamaulipas in 1947 had more than 40,000 females. Female groups smaller at sea but can have up to 50 turtles. Juveniles/babies often found in groups but sometimes alone. Additional Info: Called: Male Female Young: Hatchling Group: Arribada Weight: Male: 80 lbs Female: 100 lbs Young: 2 oz Gestation: 2 months Life Span: 30-50 years Body Length: Male: 2 ft Female: 2.3 ft Young: 0.4 ft Tail Length: Male: 3 in Female: 0.3 in Main predators of adults are sharks & orcas. Birds, mammals, & crabs prey on hatchlings. Critically endangered due to accidental bycatch in fishing/shellfishing gear, overharvesting of eggs, water pollution, habitat loss, poaching for meat, & oil spills. Increasing in wild, w/ wild population numbering 5,000 individuals. Sexually mature at 7 years old but don’t reach adulthood until age 10-most don’t breed until age 15. Females lay 1-3 egg clutches per breeding season between April-July & breed every 1-3 years. Each clutch averages 100 eggs. Fun Fact(s): Unlike other sea turtles, females nest during the day. Males rarely if ever leave water & females only leave water to nest. Discovered in 1880 by Floridian fisherman Richard M. Kemp.
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