Atlantic Ridley

Scientific name:Lepidochelys kempii

Mi’kmaq Translation: Translation Unknown

French Translation: Tortue de Kemp

Gaelic Translation: Turtar Kemp

Physical Description

The smallest of the sea turtles, the Atlantic Ridley has a heart-shaped, keeled carapace, pale yellow-grey to grey in colour. The bridge (which connects the plastron to the carapace) and plastron are white. The upper sides and top of the head, skin and flippers are grey or white. The head is wide at the back with a hooked upper jaw. Males have longer tails and a large, curved claw on their front flippers. Like many other turtle species, male Atlantic Ridley’s have a concave plastron.


Hatchlings measure up to 5cm in length

Adults measure up to 76cm in length

Adults weigh 36 to 45kg

Range and Distribution

This species is restricted to the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of Florida. Juveniles have been found throughout a larger portion of the Atlantic Ocean and can be regularly observed along the southeastern coast of the United States. They can be found in Atlantic Canada, but they are not considered a regular resident of Canadian waters.


Ridley sea turtles are aquatic, inhabiting shallow, near-shore marine environments. Adults can be observed in water up to a depth of 20m from April until September, and in waters up to 50m throughout the remainder of the year. Juveniles can be found in shallow habitats in coastal waters or in bays and lagoons.


This species forages for a wide variety of invertebrates, like crustaceans and aquatic insects, and will eat small algae and plant material.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Nesting occurs above the high tide line on sandy beaches. Most females of this species nest on a single beach along the northeastern coast of Mexico: Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas. Females reproduce every 1-2 years, and will lay 1-4 clutches during the nesting season, spaced roughly a month apart. Nesting season is mid-April to mid-July, and egg laying occurs during daylight hours, when 90 to 110 eggs are laid. In roughly 2 months, early in the morning, the hatchlings will emerge. Gender is based on the egg incubation temperature. Temperatures below 28 degrees will produce males, temperatures above 31 degrees will produce females, and temperatures in the middle could produce both sexes. Sexual maturity is reach at 10-19 years of age, and their full lifespan is uncertain past 35 years of age.


NSESA: No Status

COSEWIC: Not Assessed

*All marine turtles are considered endangered species


Marine turtles face a range of threats, like climate change, unsustainable egg harvesting and the loss of coastal habitats. Individuals can be caught as by-catch and get tangled in commercial fishing gear. Other impacts to their populations include oil spills, environmental pollution, the eating of plastics, and marine debris from human activities.