Lepidochelys olivacea

Olive Ridley Turtle

The Olive Ridley turtle has several phenomenal characteristics. The first and most impressive are the arribadas, undoubtedly the greatest animal reproduction spectacle in the world. Imagine 50,000 olive ridley turtles coming to lay their eggs on a 2 km long beach, arriving wave after wave for three days, regardless of whether it is day or night they lay their eggs en masse. However, researchers have observed that arrivals generally occur on cloudy and windy days, which favors nesting in the middle of the day. Some are also found as solitary spawners.

Another amazing characteristic is the way they nest, as described by James R. Spotila in his book Sea Turtles. The olive ridley turtle seems to dance in the sand. After laying its eggs, the turtle, resting on its front and hind flippers, alternately swings its plastron from side to side in a little dance, compacting the place where it has just laid its offspring. The number of eggs averages approximately 109 and they incubate for a period of about 45 days, after which the hatchlings emerge and immediately go to sea, like other sea turtles.

The olive ridley turtle is considered the most abundant species in the world and is also the smallest species. It is characterized by an almost circular shell, much wider than long. Generally, it has more than 15 major shields, 5 dorsal shields and more than 5 lateral pairs, although it can also present unevenness in the number of shields on each side. The anterior lateral pair is in contact with the precentral shield. The plastron has 4 shields, and each has a pore. On the leading edge of each fin there are one or two nails. The head is medium-sized, subtriangular, with two pairs of prefrontal scales and a horny, non-serrate beak. The carapace coloration of adults is olive-gray or yellowish and the plastron is greenish-gray cream with spots on the ends of the fins.

Continuing with the phenomenal thing about olive ridley turtles, they are known to have a complex and large migration after the breeding season, swimming hundreds of miles across the ocean to their feeding grounds. They are likely to move from oceanic features such as thermal fronts and cold water masses. The location of these features is not predictable for turtles, so they must discover and seek out these large areas of the ocean suitable for feeding. Its diet changes according to its location: in oceanic waters, the olive ridley turtle feeds on pelagic organisms such as lobsters and fish eggs, while in coastal waters it feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, fish and salps.

The olive ridley turtle is a pantropical species widely distributed in diverse coastal and pelagic environments. In Mexico, it is distributed along the Pacific coast, with its main areas of nesting concentration in the state of Oaxaca.

Lepidochelys olivacea has been listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as a vulnerable species. Despite the scarcity of historical data, information from various sources has made it possible to assess an overall decline of this widely distributed species. Among the main threats to the olive ridley turtle are the degradation of nesting beaches and coastal environments, caused by increased human activities, excessive looting of eggs for commercialization, and incidental fishing in shrimp trawlers.