Kemp’s ridley sea turtle – Lepidochelys kempiis

Kemp's ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys kempii Scuba Diving Canary Islands Canaries Atlantic Ocean Tenerife Gran Canaria Fuerteventura Lanzarote La Palma Gomera El Hierro

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, also known as the Atlantic ridley sea turtle, is a species of the sea turtle family and is therefore part of the order of Testudines. Lepidochelys kempii belongs to the rarest and smallest genus, although it is also highly endangered.

Description, Anatomy & Characteristics

The carapace is usually not longer than 76cm, with a weight between 30 and 45kg.

The basic colour of skin, back and belly carapace is grey. However, this can change to a yellowish colour with increasing age.

The shape of the carapace is oval and flattened. The middle horn scales are comparatively small, the outer ones relatively large and shaped like horizontal stripes.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle lacks the ability to retreat its head and limbs into the shell, which is why it must actively defend itself. It snaps around until it is completely exhausted.

Habitat, Distribution & Occurrence

Lepidochelys kempii lives predominantly in shallow coastal waters with sandy soil in the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the USA. However, some of them also undertake trips up to the Irish coast.

The Canary Islands are on their itinerary. Nevertheless, it is very unlikely to observe an Kemp’s ridley sea turtle diving on the Canary Islands.

Feeding & Biology

The young animals feed almost exclusively on crustaceans, while molluscs, jellyfish, sea urchins, algae, sea grass and fish are also on the menu of adult animals.

Young Kemp’s ridley sea turtles prefer to live in drifting sea grass.

In addition to nest predators such as the Mexican coyote, the species is threatened by fishing, neglected fishing nets, plastic waste and active hunting.


In the age of 10 to 12 years, Lepidochelys kempii becomes sexually mature. The mating takes place from April to August in open water. 95% of all females lay their eggs on the same beach in Tamaulipas in Mexico. In 1947 there were about 89000 egg laying females here, whereas in 1989 only 7700 were counted. Another nesting place is on Padre Island in Texas. In a season, the females lay eggs 2 to 3 times with a break of 10 to 20 days. A nest has 110 eggs on average.

It takes between 45 and 70 days for the baby turtles to hatch. The sex depends on the average temperature. Below 29.5°C, males will hatch, above 29.5°C only females will hatch.

Sources & Links

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