Kemp's Ridley Turtle / Tortue bâtarde
© Tricia Kimmel, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
The Kemp's Ridley Turtle is the smallest sea turtle found in Canadian waters, reaching a
maximum of 75 cm carapace
length. The greyish-green carapace is broader than long, especially in adults. It can
be distinguished by the 3-5 raised knobs along the back and serrations along the back
edge of the carapace. The
plastron is pure white. The paddle-like limbs are grey and the males have a long
curved claw on each forelimb and a long prehensile tail.
The Kemp's Ridley Turtle is similar to the other hard-shelled sea turtles but is
smaller than either the Loggerhead Turtle or the
Green Turtle. Neither of these turtles have
the raised knobs along the back although the Loggerhead has a
keel. The shape of the carapace
The Kemp's Ridley is an Atlantic sea turtle.Although adults rarely venture out of
the Gulf of Mexico, juveniles are occasionally seen along the coast of Nova Scotia
and Newfoundland in the summer.
This sea turtle prefers relatively shallow water (less than 50 m deep) compared
with other species. Juveniles hide and feed in large mats of algae or sea-grass.
The preferred nesting area is a beach of white sand on the seaward side of an
elevated dune where the tides are relatively small.
Individuals probably take 10-12 years to reach sexual maturity. Most nesting occurs
along an 18 km stretch of beach in the Gulf of Mexico. Females nest every 1-3 years.
Several clutches of up to 185 eggs are laid from April to July. Most females will
emerge from the water to nest on the same night. Sex determination is
temperature-dependent. Unlike other species of sea turtles, hatchlings may emerge
during any kind of weather and not all hatchlings from a nest emerge at the same
time. The young turtles are 4-5 cm in length.
Very little is known about this elusive sea turtle. Kemp's Ridleys feed primarily on
crustaceans such as crabs and molluscs. Juveniles are occasionally stranded on beaches
apparently after being stunned by an influx of cold water. One tagged female moved
over 5000 km from the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of Colombia.
The Kemp's Ridley has declined dramatically during the last 50 years and is considered
the most endangered species of sea turtle. The initial cause of their decline was
egg collecting which has been substantially reduced, but adults are also drowned in
fishing gear. The most serious threat is disruption of their nesting beaches.