Kemp's Ridley Turtle: Lepidochelys kempi


The Kemp's ridley is the smallest species of sea turtle, weighing only 85 to 100 pounds and measuring 2 to 2.5 feet in length of their shell. It has an olive-gray circular upper shell and a large beak-like head. The sea turtle was named for Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman interested in natural history who submitted the type specimen from Key West, Florida.


The Kemp's ridley is the rarest sea turtle in the world. Its only major nesting beach is an area called Rancho Nuevo on Mexico’s Gulf coast. The location of this nesting beach was a mystery to scientists until the discovery of a film made in 1947 by a Mexican engineer showing thousands of Kemp's ridleys crawling ashore to lay eggs there. Today, nesting females are found mainly on the beaches of Rancho Nuevo, however, they can be found on Florida and south Texas beaches.


Kemp’s ridleys primarily eat crabs and other crustaceans. Females arrive to nest at the same time as a large group after first gathering offshore of Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.  This process is known as an “arribada,” which means arrival in Spanish.

Additional Information:

Kemp’s ridley federal recovery plan: Adobe PDF

Image Credit: Blair Witherington

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