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Location: Turtles

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)



Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Order: Testudines, Family: Cheloniidae

The Olive Ridley sea turtle can weigh as much as 100 pounds and measure 30 inches long. Name for its olive-colored skin, the Olive Ridley has a heart-shaped carapace, or upper shell. The shell is also olive in color, and is rather thin compared to those of other turtle species. What distinguishes the male Olive Ridley from the female is that the male's tail extends past his carapace. The Olive Ridley has two claws on each of its four limbs.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The Olive Ridley sea turtle can weigh as much as 100 pounds and measure 30 inches long.
  • Name for its olive-colored skin, the Olive Ridley has a heart-shaped carapace, or upper shell. The shell is also olive in color, and is rather thin compared to those of other turtle species.
  • What distinguishes the male Olive Ridley from the female is that the male's tail extends past his carapace.
  • The Olive Ridley has two claws on each of its four limbs.
II. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The Olive Ridley can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as the southern Atlantic Ocean. Bhitar Kanika Wildlife Sanctuary, on the Bay of Bengal in Orissa, India, currently serves as the largest nesting site.
  • This turtle spends most of its time within 9 miles of shore, preferring to feed and sunbathe in shallow seas. However, it has also been observed in open oceans.
III. DIET:
  • The Olive Ridley feeds mainly on invertebrates and protochordates, such as jellyfish, snails, shrimp and crabs.
  • Surprisingly, Olive Ridley sea turtles in captivity have been observed to be cannibalistic.
  • The Olive Ridley mostly feeds in shallow waters. Where other food is scarce, this species will principally feed on algae.
  • Pollution in the oceans poses a threat to the species, as Olive Ridleys sometimes ingest trash, such as plastic debris and Styrofoam, by mistake.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Although the exact age at which these sea turtles reach sexual maturity is unknown, females usually attain a length of 23 inches before becoming reproductively active.
  • Olive Ridleys generally mate just offshore on beaches, and are not monogamous. Females store the male's sperm in their bodies for use throughout the entire breeding season, and a single female can nest multiple months in a row.
  • Females return to their beach of birth to lay their eggs by remembering the smell of the beach through enhanced chemosensors. Some 300 females or more have been known to nest together on the same beach.
  • The female turtles dig a 1-to 2-foot-deep nest, in which they deposit about 105 white pingpong-shaped eggs, and then return to the sea. The entire process takes them less than an hour. The eggs hatch within 45 to 51 days, depending on incubation temperatures, which also determine the sex of the turtle.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • The Olive Ridley typically feeds in the morning, and sunbathes at the surface of the ocean in the afternoon.
  • In colder climates, large groups of Olive Ridleys sometimes sunbathe together to combat the chilly water temperature.
  • Olive Ridley sea turtles lay their eggs on only five beaches worldwide. Although the Olive Ridley is still the healthiest numbers-wise of all sea-turtle species, governments are in the process of protecting their nesting sites and populations.
  • Thanks to U.S. government legislation, companies harvesting shrimp for sale in the United States must use "turtle excluder devices." These devices enable sea turtles to safely avoid capture in shrimping nets.



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