The olive ridley sea turtle is a marine reptile found throughout most of Earth’s oceans. It is identified by its olive-green or green-gray color and heart-shaped carapace. The carapace may have from five to nine pairs of thick bony plates called “scutes” along its surface. The turtle’s flippers each have two to three visible claws.
Compared to other sea turtle species, the olive ridley is small with most adults measuring 22-31 inches (55-80 cm) in length and weighing a maximum of about 100 pounds (45 kg). The turtle’s lifespan is unknown although most reach sexual maturity at around 15 years of age. Like other turtle species, it is likely that these are very long-lived animals.
These turtles are carnivorous, preying mostly only jellies, shrimp, crabs, urchins and lobsters. As adults, their natural predators are few and far between although sharks and orcas may occasionally take turtles is the opportunity presents itself.
Olive ridley sea turtles are classified as a pelagic species, meaning they spend most of their life in the open sea. These animals are found in the tropical latitudes of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They will generally only come ashore in mass-breeding events called “arribada,” which is Spanish for “arrival by sea.” During these events, thousands of olive ridley sea turtles may swarm onto tropical beaches to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young will return to the sea where they will live out most of their lives. During the nesting period, however, many eggs may be eaten by various animals including raccoons, coyotes, domesticated dogs and pigs.
Although more abundant than other sea turtle species, the Olive Ridley Turtle has been heavily exploited throughout the world, which has had a devastating impact on its overall numbers. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some populations have decreased by 50% to 80%, depending on their location. Turtle populations in the Atlantic Ocean appear to be the most dramatically affected. On the west coast of North America, turtle numbers have plummeted since the 1960s due to fisheries in both Mexico and Ecuador which targeted turtle eggs. Increased conservation efforts in recent decades have helped some of these populations stabilize. Only a few have actually grown in size. The turtles are protected in all U.S. waters but still face challenges presented by accidental fisheries by-catch, entanglement in discarded fishing nets, ingestion or entanglement in plastic marine debris and climate change.
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