Each species of sea turtle is distinctive in appearance and behavior, all sea turtles have certain characteristics in common the shell consist of a carapace (upper part) and plastron (lower part), which are joined together by cartilage called a bridge. in most species with the exception of the leatherback scutes cover the carapace. Like all turtles sea turtles have no external ears, they hear best at low frequencies and their sense of smell is excellent. Though their vision underwater is good, on land they are nearsighted.
Sea turtles spend most of their time underwater but must come up to breath. During routine activities sea turtles can dive for about three to five minutes. Sea turtles can sleep for several hours underwater, but their ability to hold their breath is shortened by high activity and stress. This is why sea turtles drown in shrimp nets and other gear in a short time. Adult sea turtles sleep near rocks or under ledges. Hatchlings and juveniles sleep on the surface with their front flippers pulled back over the carapace.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempi)
Charming Tortoise of Kemp
Ridleys are the smallest of the sea turtles. The Kemp’s ridley is slightly larger than the olive ridley, measuring 24 – 28 inches in carapace length and weighing 78 – 100 pounds when mature. An adult is olive green on top and yellowish in color on the bottom, with a large head and powerful jaws. The carapace is circular to heart shaped. Hatchlings are dark gray and about an inch and a half long.
Kemp’s ridleys werefirst discovered and described in 1880 by Samuel Garman. But until the 1940’s was not recognized as a species and was often confused with the olive ridley and the loggerhead. Confusion continued through the 1950’s with many biologist convinced that the ridleys sea turtle was a sterile hybrid of the green and the loggerhead turtles. No one could find nesting beaches or an egg-bearing female.