American Oceans

Olive Ridley Turtle

The Olive Ridley turtle, scientifically known as the Lepidochelys Olivacea, was named after its beautiful shell color.

Olive Ridley Turtle swimming under the ocean

The Pacific Ridley turtle’s heart-shaped shell gives off a light olive green hue and is one of the smallest sea turtles in the world.

Although not extinct yet, the Olive Ridley turtle may be in imminent danger in the near future due to the increasing demand for turtle meat and their eggs.

Olive Ridley turtles are essential to the environment because they feed on seagrass, which helps other sea species stay safe and help the oceans’ oxygen and nutrients as part of the ecosystem, crucial for life on Earth. 

Characteristics and Appearance

Similar to the Kemp’s Ridley turtle, the Olive Ridley are the two smallest turtles globally. They both have upturned edges to the carapace (top shell).

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle appearance on beach

While the Kemp turtle has a rusty-colored surface shell, the Olive Ridley is known for its greenish-blue shell.

Weight and Length

Generally, the Olive Ridley turtle only grows 2.5 feet long, ranging from 80 – 100 pounds.

Their eggs are about five centimeters in diameter and, when born, weigh about 12 – 22 grams, which is not even half a pound.

The size and weight of an Olive Ridley vary according to where they live and thrive.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle full length stretched swimming

Physical Characteristics and Color

You may recognize the Olive Ridley by its heart-shaped shell, similar to the Hawksbill turtle.

Perhaps the most significant feature of the Olive Ridley is that it has one to two claws on each of its four flippers.

Olive Ridley Turtle color out of the sea

Most turtles can pull their limbs and heads inside their shells; however, the Olive Ridley and other sea turtles cannot.

In most subspecies of turtles, the male is larger and heavier than the female. However, an Olive Ridley male and female are the same size.

The Olive Ridley turtle maintains a beautiful leathery carapace having about 5-9 scutes (layer of thick octagonal plates).

Some Ridleys have mostly green shells, while others have greyish-blue or blue-green.

While the Kemp’s Ridley turtle and the Olive Ridley turtle are pretty similar in size, length, and appearance, the only way to distinguish between the two species is by the Olive Ridley’s distinct color patterns.

Olive Ridley Turtle characteristics in the blue ocean

Lifespan and Reproduction

Ridley lives up to 60 years old and becomes sexually mature at about 13 years old.

Due to the sexually mature age, many Olive Ridleys don’t make it to the breeding season, making their population numbers vulnerable.

Olive Ridley Turtle performs mating ritual for reproduction

Female Ridleys can store sperm throughout the breeding season, which allows them to lay up to three times in a nesting season.

Olive Ridleys are also known for their arribada habits (mass nesting). Arribada only occurs on a few beaches worldwide.

While most Olive Ridleys like to nest alone, many nests in groups, breeding seasons start in June and last until December. Many Olive Ridley turtles will return to their place of birth to lay their young.

Perhaps the most significant reason sea turtles live so long is their slow metabolism, giving them an advantage in harsh and critical conditions.

Olive Ridley Turtle breeding seasons

Many stages of an Olive Ridleys life are affected by the environment around them, which is why many eggs do not make it to the ocean once hatched.

Habitat

Generally speaking, the Olive Ridley resides in most pacific oceanic areas; however, they will inhabit more coastal areas. Tropical regions include:

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Indian Ocean
Olive Ridley Turtle returning to its habitat

Many nesting grounds of the Olive Ridley have been found in West Africa and South America. You may see the Olive Ridley feed and breed in North Canada, as far south as Peru.

The Olive Ridley is typically found across 80 countries within coastal waters. Nesting beaches are mainly found between neritic and oceanic zones in Mexico, India, and Costa Rica.

Where Do Olive Ridley Turtles Live?

While many Olive Ridleys stay close to their place of birth, most swim across the ocean until they are sexually mature, returning to their hatchling area.

Olive Ridley Turtle in blue water coral reef

Olive Ridleys prefer open ocean habitats; however, they are found on oceanic floors closer to their choice of prey – bottom fish and invertebrates.

Rarely, if ever, will the Olive Ridley turtle nest along coastal beaches; however, they will utilize the waters near southwestern US states.

Olive Ridley turtles can be found in the North of Oregon during feeding migration.

Food and Diet

The Olive Ridley turtle is an omnivore that mainly feeds on invertebrates found in the depths of the ocean floor.

Olive Ridley Turtle looking for food to feed

Since the Olive Ridley is omnivorous, which means they eat both plant and animal matter, they reside as a second consumer in the food chain.

Next on the food chain are carnivores like the shark.

What Do Ridley Turtles Eat?

Since Olive Ridley turtles live across many oceans, they have a broad diet of crabs, jellyfish, shrimp, and mollusks or algae.

Olive Ridley Turtle eat algae for food

The Olive Ridley’s main food course is the bottom feeders of the ocean as there are fewer predators.

Olive Ridley turtles do not attack their prey the same way a shark or large mammal would, so they do not have teeth to bite into their meat.

Instead, Ridleys use their sharp beak to tear into prey and vegetation. The Ridley also uses its strong jaw to suffocate and crush exoskeletons.

To survive, Olive Ridley turtles need to consume at least 16,000 calories per day which is 73% of their body weight.

Olive Ridley Turtle diet looking for food

Olive Ridleys inhabit most of the ocean globally, so finding, killing, and eating prey is not particularly difficult.

Perhaps, the most challenging part of an Olive Ridley turtle’s day is finding food before they become the prey.

Its food lives nearly everywhere the turtle migrates, making it reasonably easy for the Olive Ridley to consume 16,000 calories.

While their favorite food consists of the invertebrates found on the ocean floor, they mainly consume seagrass, mollusks, and algae.

Olive Ridley Turtle searching food in the ocean

Threats and Predators

There are many threats that keep the population of the Olive Ridley turtle at bay. Aside from illegal bycatching from humans, Olive Ridleys face habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution, and climate change, among others, such as:

Human Threats

Humans hunt turtles mainly for their meat or eggs. Other human causes are due to illegal fisheries, in which turtles will get caught in fishing nets.

Olive Ridley Turtle hatchling catched by human

Because of illegal fishing, 80% of the world’s Olive Ridleys species have decreased, making it hard to determine the future for these sea turtles.

Climate Change and Global Warming

Climate change continues to have significant damage to all life on Earth – mainly sea turtles and ocean life.

Olive Ridley Turtle running away from hot climate

Due to the emission from greenhouse gases, the oceans’ temperature increases daily because the ocean will absorb the excess heat. Rising ocean temperatures cause coral bleaching and loss of habitat for breeding.

Predators

During the hatching season, predators such as raccoons, coyotes, possums, and snakes are the mainland predators for the Olive Ridleys eggs.

Olive Ridley Turtle dead by predator on beach

Many Olive Ridley young do not make it back to the ocean due to dug-up nests. Other predators in the ocean that prey on Olive Ridleys are sharks, orcas, and other large sea mammals.

Other Threats

Olive Ridley faces other threats due to vessel strikes, ocean pollution, and loss of nesting and breeding habitat.

Olive Ridley Turtle taken away by ocean pollution

Females are more susceptible to vessel strikes because it is in their line of reproductive migration. Ocean pollution consists of plastic and garbage, which will kill any sea species.

Conservation Status

Olive Ridley sea turtles are vulnerable but not yet endangered. They are the most populated species of turtles, ranging up to 800,000 left.

Hatched Olive Ridley Turtles makes way to ocean

The most significant factor that this sea turtle species will decrease is the many threats it faces in its daily lives.

Fun Facts About the Olive Ridley Turtle

  • The Ridley Olive turtle got its name after the color of its carapace.
  • An Olive Ridley lays up to 50- 200 eggs at one time.
  • Olive Ridleys were found at depths of 500 feet in the ocean.
  • Olive Ridley sleeps underwater for up to two hours before they reach the surface for oxygen.
  • The sex of an Olive Ridley depends on the temperature of the nest. Females are born in temperatures higher than 88F, while males are born with temperatures lower than 82F.
  • Olive Ridley uses the wind and tide to help them return to their place of birth.
  • A male Olive Ridley sticks their tails out from their carapace, whereas a female does not.
  • Olive Ridley turtles eat up to 16,000 calories per day.

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