Kemp’s Ridley sea turtlesinhabit the coastal and open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from Bermuda up to Nova Scotia. Their diet includes mollusks, jellyfish, seaweed and crabs. They live between 30 and 50 years in the wild.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtleshave grayish-green shells and bellies that range in color from off-white to yellow. They have four flippers with claws and a jaw with a beak-like shape. These are the smallest sea turtles in the world. Adults have an average shell length of 2 feet and weigh up to 100 pounds.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtleshave a breeding season that lasts from April through July. Females can produce more than one clutch of eggs in one breeding season, but they typically only breed every two to three years. Females gather in groups and form a procession on the beach, called an arribada, in order to find a suitable nesting spot. Their eggs incubate for around 55 days after being laid in the nest. The young turtles are on their own from the time they hatch and must reach the water while avoiding predators.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtlesare strong swimmers and spend most of their time in the water. Females generally only venture onto land to lay their eggs. In most cases, these turtles live solitary lives. When they do look for other members of their species, they use vocalizations and visual cues to find them.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles have experienced steep population declines over the years. The number of breeding females in the 1940s was estimated to be 40,000. Currently, there are only around 1,000 breeding females left.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is listed as critically endangered, mainly due to its eggs being over-harvested by humans. Since newborn turtles are highly vulnerable to predators, such as dogs and seabirds, until they reach the water, their numbers have been rebounding at a very slow rate. The other major threat to the species is unintentional capture by fishing equipment. Conservation efforts include fishing gear modifications and legal protection of nesting sites. Since the Kemp's Ridley relies on the Gulf of Mexico coastline for its breeding grounds, it is very susceptible to oil spills and other pollutants in the Gulf.
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