The Kemp's ridley turtle has a triangular-shaped head with a slightly hooked beak. Hatchlings are darkly colored on both sides. Adults are generally a grayish-green color on top with a pale, yellowish bottom shell. The top shell (carapace) is often as wide as it is long. Each of the front flippers has one claw while the back flippers may have one or two.
The Kemp's ridley is one of two species of sea turtles that engage in "arribada" nesting, where large groups of females gather offshore and come onto the beach to nest all at once. Nesting in large groups may be a defense against predators, or a result of environmental factors influencing nesting. With many turtles coming ashore together and many nests subsequently hatching at the same time, the large numbers of hatchlings entering the ocean may help to overwhelm predators and ensure that more hatchlings make it to open water to reduce predation. The other species of sea turtle that nests en masse is the olive ridley. They are the only sea turtles that routinely nest during the day.
Depending on their breeding strategy, male Kemp's ridleys occupy many different areas within the Gulf of Mexico. Some males migrate annually between feeding and breeding grounds, yet others may not migrate at all, mating with females encountered at their feeding grounds or near nesting beaches. Female Kemp's ridleys have been tracked migrating to and from nesting beaches in Mexico and south Texas. Females leave breeding and nesting areas and migrate to foraging areas ranging from the Yucatán Peninsula to southern Florida to the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Some females take up residence in specific foraging grounds for months at a time and return to the same foraging grounds in subsequent years.
For all sea turtles, a warming climate is likely to result in changes in beach morphology and higher sand temperatures, which can be lethal to eggs or alter the ratio of male and female hatchlings produced. Rising seas and storm events cause beach erosion, which may flood nests or wash them away. Changes in the temperature of the marine environment are likely to alter the abundance and distribution of food resources, leading to a shift in the migratory and foraging range and nesting season of kemp's ridleys.
The Mexican government has played a vital role in the conservation of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle. The Kemp's ridley turtle has benefited from legal protection by Mexico since the 1960s. In 1977, a refuge was established at the only known nesting beach and included the Rancho Nuevo nesting beach as part of a system of reserves for sea turtles. In 1990, a complete ban on taking any species of sea turtle was implemented by the Mexican government. In 2002, the beach at Rancho Nuevo was designated as a Natural Protected Area under the category of Sanctuary.
Identification: The Atlantic ridley sea turtle has often been confused with thelarger but similar-looking loggerhead turtle. The Atlantic ridley can be identified by itsyellow plastron (bottom shell) and broad, gray carapace (top shell), which is heart-shapedand keeled (with ridged scales). There are 5 or more pairs of lateral scutes (plates) onthe carapace and 4 pairs of pore-bearing inframarginal scutes (large scutes that connectthe plastron and carapace) on the plastron. The triangular gray head has a hooked beak.The paddlelike limbs have 1 claw on the front flippers and 2 claws on the back flippers.Hatchlings are black on both sides.
Range: The Atlantic ridley ranges from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland south toBermuda and west through the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting adults are usually concentrated inthe Gulf of Mexico, while juvenile turtles may extend along the Atlantic coast of theUnited States. The species is infrequently observed on the shores of western Europe.
Reason for Decline: Atlantic ridley turtle populations have historically declineddue to overharvesting for turtle products and eggs. They are also limited by deaths fromoil spills, beach traffic, beach development and predation on nestlings. Boat propellers,which often inflict serious wounds to sea turtles, have been responsible for many turtledeaths. Commercial fishing and shrimping activities often cause turtles to drown or becomemutilated or entangled in nets. Fortunately, federal regulations now require all shrimptrawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to use turtle excluder devices(TEDs) year-round.
History in Connecticut: Although it is frequently thought of as a tropicalturtle, the Atlantic ridley does wander north into Connecticut during the warmer months. Seaturtles have been documented in Long Island Sound since the early 1900s. In a recent NewYork study, the Atlantic ridley was found to be the most abundant species of sea turtlealong the shores of New York.
Interesting Facts: In the past, Atlantic ridleys were often confused withloggerhead turtles; they are even known as Kemp's loggerheads. This species tends to useshallower water for foraging in the summer than loggerheads. 041b061a72