Kemp's ridley sea turtle

Kemp's ridley sea turtle[2] (Lepidochelys kempii ), also called the Atlantic ridley sea turtle, is the rarest species of sea turtle and is critically endangered. It is one of two living species in the genus Lepidochelys (the other one being L. olivacea, the olive ridley sea turtle).

Kemp's ridley sea turtle
Lepidochelys kempii
Lepidochelys kempii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Cheloniidae
Genus: Lepidochelys
L. kempii
Binomial name
Lepidochelys kempii
(Garman, 1880)
  • Thalassochelys kempii
    Garman, 1880
  • Lepidochelys kempii
    Baur, 1890
  • Colpochelys kempii
    O.P. Hay, 1905
  • Caretta kempii
    Siebenrock, 1909
  • Lepidochelys olivacea kempii
    Mertens & Wermuth, 1955
  • Lepidochelys kempii
    — Fritz & Havaš, 2007[1]
Computed tomography-based model of a Lepidochelys kempii skull, with selected muscles highlighted.


This species of turtle is called Kemp's ridley because Richard Moore Kemp (1825-1908) of Key West was the first to send a specimen to Samuel Garman at Harvard.[3] However, the etymology of the name "ridley" itself is unknown. Prior to the term being popularly used (for both species in the genus), L. kempii at least was known as the "bastard turtle".[4]

At least one source also refers to Kemp's ridley as a "heartbreak turtle". In her book The Great Ridley Rescue, Pamela Philips claimed the name was coined by fishermen who witnessed the turtles dying after being "turned turtle" (on their backs). The fishermen said the turtles "died of a broken heart".[5][6]


Kemp's ridley is a small sea turtle species, reaching maturity at 58–70 cm (23–28 in) carapace length and weighing only 36–45 kg (79–99 lb).[7] Typical of sea turtles, it has a dorsoventrally depressed body with specially adapted flipper-like front limbs and a beak. Kemp's ridley turtle is the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults reaching a maximum of 75 cm (30 in) in carapace length and weighing a maximum of 50 kg (110 lb).[7] The adult has an oval carapace that is almost as wide as it is long and is usually olive-gray in color. The carapace has five pairs of costal scutes. In each bridge adjoining the plastron to the carapace are four inframarginal scutes, each of which is perforated by a pore. The head has two pairs of prefrontal scales. Hatchlings are black on both sides. Kemp's ridley has a triangular-shaped head with a somewhat hooked beak with large crushing surfaces. This turtle is a shallow-water benthic feeder with a diet consisting primarily of crabs.

Distribution and habitat

Lieux pontes tortue de kemp
Lepidochelys kempii distribution

Kemp's ridley sea turtle generally prefers warm waters, but inhabits waters as far north as New Jersey. These turtles migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic, where they often inhabit the waters off Louisiana, among other states that boarder the gulf [1].[8]

Its geographic range includes the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Almost all females return each year to a single beach—Rancho Nuevo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas—to lay eggs. The females arrive in large groups of hundreds or thousands in nesting aggregations called arribadas, which is a Spanish word for "arrivals".[9][10]

Some travel as far away as the coast of Ireland, and two individuals managed to journey as far as the coasts of Devonshire.

Feeding and life history


Kemp's ridley turtle feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, fish, algae or seaweed, and sea urchins. Juvenile Kemp's ridleys primarily feed on crabs.[11]

Life history

Juvenile turtles tend to live in floating sargassum seaweed beds for their first years.[12] Then they range between northwest Atlantic waters and the Gulf of Mexico while growing into maturity.

These turtles change color as they mature. As hatchlings, they are almost entirely a dark purple , but mature adults have a yellow-green or white plastron and a grey-green carapace. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 10-12.[13]

The nesting season for these turtles is April to August. They nest mostly on a 16-mile beach in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas and on Padre Island in the US state of Texas, and elsewhere on the Gulf coast. They mate offshore. Gravid females land in groups on beaches in what is commonly called an arribada[12] or mass nesting. They prefer areas with dunes or, secondarily, swamps. The estimated number of nesting females in 1947 was 89,000, but shrank to an estimated 7,702 by 1985.[14]

Females nest two or three times during a season, keeping 10 to 20 days between nestings. Incubation takes 45 to 70 days. On average, around 110 eggs are in a clutch. The hatchlings' sex is decided by the temperature in the area during incubation. If the temperature is below 29.5 °C, the offspring will be mainly male.

Turtle hatchling close-up, Texas (5984381381)


Lepidochelys kempii baby turtle


Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle, Texas (5984946972)

Juvenile turtle

Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nesting

Adult turtle nesting

Kemp ridley sea turtle endangered species washes up on the beach

Deceased adult


Biologists collecting Kemp's ridley sea turtle's eggs to transport them to the Kennedy Space Center for hatching

Hunting first depleted the numbers of Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, but today, major threats include habitat loss, pollution, and entanglement in shrimping nets.

Mexico first protected Kemp's ridleys in the “2018s”. In the United States, Kemp's ridley turtle was first listed under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1970[15] on December 2, 1970, and subsequently under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. A binational recovery plan was developed in 1984, and revised in 1992. A draft public review draft of the second revision was published by NOAA Fisheries in March 2010.[16] This revision includes an updated threat assessment.[17]

One mechanism used to protect turtles from fishing nets is the turtle excluder device (TED). Because the biggest danger to the population of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles is shrimp trawls, the device is attached to the shrimp trawl. It is a grid of bars with an opening at the top or bottom, fitted into the neck of the shrimp trawl. It allows small animals to slip through the bars and be caught while larger animals, such as sea turtles, strike the bars and are ejected, thus avoiding possible drowning.

Kemp's ridley nests found on the Texas coast 1985-2013

In September 2007, Corpus Christi, Texas, wildlife officials found a record of 128 Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests on Texas beaches, including 81 on North Padre Island (Padre Island National Seashore) and four on Mustang Island. The figure was exceeded in each of the following 7 years (see graph to 2013, provisional figures for 2014 as at July, 118.[18]). Wildlife officials released 10,594 Kemp's ridley hatchlings along the Texas coast that year. The turtles are popular in Mexico, as boot material and food.[19]

Oil spills

Some Kemp's ridleys were airlifted from Mexico after the 1979 blowout of the Ixtoc 1 rig, which spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Since April 30, 2010, 10 days after the accident on the Deepwater Horizon, 156 sea turtle deaths were recorded; most were Kemp’s ridleys. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists and enforcement agents rescued Kemp's ridleys in Grand Isle.[20] "Most" of the 456 oiled turtles that were rescued, cleaned, and released by US Fish and Wildlife Service were Kemp's ridleys.[21]

Of the endangered marine species frequenting Gulf waters, only Kemp’s ridley relies on the region as its sole breeding ground.[22]

As part of the effort to save the species from some of the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists took nests and incubated them elsewhere; 67 eggs were collected from a nest along the Florida Panhandle on June 26, 2010, and brought to a temperature-controlled warehouse at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where 56 hatched, and 22 were released on 11 July 2010.[23]

The overall plan was to collect eggs from about 700 sea turtle nests, incubate them, and release the young on beaches across Alabama and Florida over a period of months.[23][24] Eventually, 278 nests were collected, including only a few Kemp's ridley nests.[25]


  1. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Havaš, Peter. (2007). Checklist of Chelonians of the World. Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 149-368. (Lepidochelys kempii, pp. 168-169).
  2. ^ Rhodin AGJ, van Dijk PP, Iverson JB, Shaffer HB (2010). Rhodin AGJ, Pritchard PCH, van Dijk PP, Saumure AR, Buhlmann KA, Iverson JB, Mittermeier RA, ed. "Turtles of the World: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy and Synonymy" (PDF). Chelonian Research Monographs. Chelonian Research Foundation and the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group of IUCN Species Survival Commission: 85–164. doi:10.3854/crm.5.000.checklist.v3.2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Lepidochelys kempii, p. 139).
  4. ^ Dundee, Harold A. (2001). "The Etymological Riddle of the Ridley Sea Turtle". Marine Turtle Newsletter. 58: 10–12. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  5. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles. Gulf Office of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  6. ^ Philips, Pamela (September 1988). The Great Ridley Rescue. Mountain Press. p. 180. ISBN 0-87842-229-3.
  7. ^ a b Conant R (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. + Plates 1-48. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Lepidochelys kempi, pp. 75-76 + Plate 11).
  9. ^ Pritchard, Peter (1969). "Studies of the systematics and reproduction of the genus Lepidochelys ". Ph.D. Dissertation – via University of Florida, Gainesville.
  10. ^ Plotkin, Pamela (2007). Biology and Conservation of Ridley Sea Turtles. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780801886119 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Burke VJ, Morreale SJ, Standora EA (1994). "Diet of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, Lepidochelys kempii, in New York waters". NOAA NMFS Fishery Bulletin. Retrieved Dec 20, 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Kemp's Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) - Office of Protected Resources - NOAA Fisheries". NOAA Fisheries. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  13. ^ "Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Pictures, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Facts". National Geographic. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  14. ^ "Sea Turtle Recovery Project". National Park Service. March 9, 2010. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010.
  15. ^ "Endangered Species Act (ESA) :: NOAA Fisheries". 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  16. ^ "Draft Bi-National Recovery Plan for the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)" (PDF). Secretariat of Environment & Natural Resources Mexico, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Interior. September 19, 1984.
  17. ^ "2010 Threats Assessment, NOAA Fisheries".
  18. ^ "Current Sea Turtle Nesting Season". National Park Service. Archived from the original on March 25, 2015.
  19. ^, Endangered turtle nests found in Texas
  20. ^ "Sea Turtles recovered from Oil Spill Gulf of Mexico". via Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016.
  21. ^ Masti, Ramit (June 1, 2011). "Nesting turtles give clues on oil spill's impact". Associated Press. Fox News. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  22. ^ Kaufman, Leslie (May 18, 2010). "Gulf Oil Again Imperils Sea Turtle". The New York Times.
  23. ^ a b Macintosh, Zoe (July 16, 2010). "NASA Rescues Baby Sea Turtles Threatened by Gulf Oil Spill". Purch. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-25.,, July 15, 2010
  25. ^ "NASA's turtle egg rescue from Gulf oil spill is deemed a success". Associated Press. NOLA. September 8, 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2017.

Further reading

External links

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The Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean mangroves (NT1401) is an ecoregion along the coasts of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil.


Cheloniidae is a family of typically large marine turtles that are characterised by their common traits such as, having a flat streamlined wide and rounded shell and almost paddle-like flippers for their forelimbs. The six species that make up this family are: the green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, olive ridley sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, flatback sea turtle and the Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

Davids' Island (New York)

Davids' Island is a 78-acre (320,000 m2) island off the coast of New Rochelle, New York, in Long Island Sound. Currently uninhabited, in the past it was the site of Fort Slocum. The island is home to the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle, and birds such as osprey and least terns. Davids' Island also supports valuable wetlands, rare rocky intertidal areas, and sandy beaches. The waters surrounding the island are home to winter flounder, Atlantic herring, and Atlantic silverside.

Endangered species

An endangered species is a species which has been categorized as very likely to become extinct. Endangered (EN), as categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations in the IUCN's schema after Critically Endangered (CR).

In 2012, the IUCN Red List featured 3079 animal and 2655 plant species as endangered (EN) worldwide. The figures for 1998 were, respectively, 1102 and 1197.

Many nations have laws that protect conservation-reliant species: for example, forbidding hunting, restricting land development or creating preserves. Population numbers, trends and species' conservation status can be found at the lists of organisms by population.

List of reptiles of Colombia

Colombia is the sixth richest country in the world for reptiles, and third richest in the Western Hemisphere.

List of reptiles of Ireland

There is only one land reptile species native to Ireland, the viviparous or common lizard. It appears to have a widespread distribution across the entire island with coastal, bogland and mountainous areas showing highest numbers of sightings.

Five marine turtle species appear regularly off the west coast but do not come ashore. All are endangered, some critically. The pond turtle is introduced.

List of reptiles of Italy

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They are listed here in three systematic groups (Sauria, Serpentes, and Testudines) in alphabetical order by scientific name.

List of reptiles of Massachusetts

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List of reptiles of North Carolina

This is a list of reptile species and subspecies found in North Carolina, based mainly on checklists from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Common and scientific names are according to the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles publications.

(I) - Introduced

(V) - Venomous snake

List of reptiles of Portugal

This is a list of the reptiles found in Portugal.

List of reptiles of the Canary Islands

List of reptiles of the Canary Islands is an incomplete list of reptiles found in the Canary Islands. This list includes both endemic and introduced species.

Mustang Island

Mustang Island is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Texas in the United States. The island is 18 miles (29 km) long, stretching from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas. The island is oriented generally northeast-southwest, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east and south, and Corpus Christi Bay on the north and west. The island's southern end connects by roadway to Padre Island. At the northern end of the island is Port Aransas, beyond which is San José Island. The Aransas Channel, also known as the "Aransas Pass," which separates Mustang Island from San José Island, is protected by jetties extending into the Gulf from each island.

The town of Port Aransas is located at the northern end of the island. Mustang Island State Park encompasses the entire southern third of the island, including 3,955 acres (1,600 ha) and 5 miles (8 km) of beach. The city of Corpus Christi includes the northernmost portion of Padre Island and part of Mustang Island between Port Aransas and the state park.

The island is a popular Spring Break destination for its beaches and is also popular with snowbirds, Northerns and Canadians who spend their winters in warm climates.

Padre Island

Padre Island is the largest of the Texas barrier islands and is the world's longest barrier island. It is part of the U.S. state of Texas. The island is located along Texas's southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is noted for its white sandy beaches at the south end. Meaning father in Spanish, it was named after Father José Nicolás Ballí (c.1770-1829), who owned the island and served as a missionary priest and collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley. He also founded the first mission in present-day Cameron County.Padre Island is the second-largest island by area in the contiguous United States, after Long Island in New York on the Atlantic Coast. It is about 113 miles (182 km) long and 1.8 miles (3 km) wide, stretching from the city of Corpus Christi, in the north, to the resort community of South Padre Island in the south. The island is oriented north-south, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the east, and Laguna Madre on the west. The island's northern end connects to Mustang Island by roadway. The southern end of the island is separated from Brazos Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass.

The town of South Padre Island is located on its southern end, but the island as a whole is sparsely populated. The central part of the island is preserved in a natural wild state as Padre Island National Seashore and part of the lower island is protected as part of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Since 1964, the island has been divided by the artificial Port Mansfield Channel. The terms "North Padre Island" and "South Padre Island" are often used to refer to the separated portions of the island. Padre Island is included within the jurisdictions of Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, and Willacy counties in Texas.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) is a national seashore located on Padre Island off the coast of South Texas. In contrast to South Padre Island, known for its beaches and vacationing college students, PAIS is located on North Padre Island and consists of a long beach where nature is preserved.

Most of the park is primitive, but camping is available, and most of the beach is only accessible to four-wheel-drive vehicles. All but four miles is open to vehicle traffic. PAIS is the fourth designated national seashore in the United States.North Padre Island is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. The national seashore is 70 miles (110 km) long with 65.5 miles (105.4 km) of Gulf beach. PAIS hosts a variety of pristine beach, dune, and tidal flat environments, including the Laguna Madre on its west coast, a famous spot for windsurfing. It is located in parts of Kleberg, Kenedy, and Willacy counties, with Kenedy County having the majority of its land area.

Ridley sea turtle

Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys) are a genus of sea turtle comprising two species: Kemp's ridley sea turtle and the olive ridley sea turtle.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are currently on the New York and United States lists of endangered species .

Sea Turtle Restoration Project

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), founded in 1989, is a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), a United States 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization with a goal of protecting endangered sea turtles from human-caused threats at nesting beaches and in the ocean.

STRP states its mission as being:

To protect endangered sea turtles in ways that make cultural and economic sense to the communities that share the beaches and waters with these gentle creatures.

STRP engages in activities such as educating the public about sea turtles, urging people to get involved with sea turtle protection, advocating for laws and regulations that protect sea turtles from accidentally getting caught in commercial fishing operations, filing lawsuits when the United States Endangered Species Act or other conservation laws are violated, and disseminating information about sea turtles to elected officials, regulatory agencies, members of the media and the public. STRP currently has offices in the United States, Central America and the Western Pacific.

Texas State Aquarium

The Texas State Aquarium is a nonprofit aquarium located in Corpus Christi, Texas, United States. It is dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and rehabilitation of the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico. It has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1995. It is the largest aquarium in Texas and one of the largest aquariums in the United States.

Virginia Aquarium

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, formerly known as the Virginia Marine Science Museum, is an aquarium and marine science museum located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just south of Rudee Inlet. The exhibits at the museum are contained in over 800,000 US gallons (3,028,000 l) of fresh and saltwater displays.

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