Olive ridley sea turtles can be found in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, and spend most of their time in the ocean, coming ashore to nest or to sun in especially cold weather. They nest in India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Central America, and the Western coast of Africa. While they don’t nest in the United States, they can often be found offshore of the Southern states. Their diet consists of algae, shellfish, fish, and crustaceans. They have been known to dive to depths of up to 500 feet to hunt.
Olive ridley sea turtles are one of the smallest species of sea turtles in the world. They typically weigh less than 100 pounds and measure just two to two and a half feet from nose to tail.
Although olive ridleys are considered a vulnerable species, they are the most abundant of any sea turtle species. Their vulnerable status is a result of humans disturbing their nests, harming the turtles with fishing, and destroying their nesting habitats. Their nests are called arribadas. More exactly, the entire nesting site, where thousands of individual nests may be made, is called an arribada, which means “arrival”. While some olive ridleys prefer to nest alone, most make their nest among others.
Olive ridleys primarily nest in Mexico, as well as on some small tropical islands. In 1986, 17 reserve areas were established in Mexico to protect the olive ridleys who nested there. In 1990, a ban was placed on capturing olive ridleys. Ever since, their population has been stabilizing. Unfortunately, they have a long way to go. Their population has decreased by half from what it was in 1960.
Like most turtles, the sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest. Warmer temperatures result in female babies. Some evidence suggests that climate change could be disrupting the normal ratios of male and female turtles, resulting in higher than normal female hatchlings.
Speaking of hatchlings, olive ridleys don’t always have their distinctive green shells. They actually start off grey and turn green as the turtle gets older. Young olive ridleys have a long childhood. They aren’t fully mature until about 15 years of age. Most olive ridleys have a lifespan of about 50 years.
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