home Water, Wildlife Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Photo: Terry Ross

Each spring, the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), the smallest of the sea turtles, reach the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to lay their eggs on the beach of Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas and South Padre Island, Texas.

The species is named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who first submitted the species for identification in 1906.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles generally prefer warm waters, but inhabit waters as far north as New Jersey. They migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

Most of the females return each year to a single beach—Rancho Nuevo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas—to lay eggs. The females arrive in large groups of hundreds or thousands in nesting aggregations called arribadas, which is a Spanish word for “arrival.”

Another nesting area is South Padre Island, along the nation’s longest stretch of undeveloped beach.

Female Kemp’s ridleys nest from May to July, laying two to three clutches of approximately 100 eggs, which incubate for 50-60 days.

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