Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is the rarest species of sea turtle and is critically endangered. It is one of two living species in the genus Lepidochelys the other one being the olive ridley sea turtle. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles generally prefer warm waters but inhabit waters as far north as New Jersey. They will migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.
Kemp’s ridley is a small sea turtle species), reaching maturity at 58–70 cm carapace length and weighing only 36–45 kg. Kemp’s ridley turtle is the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults reaching a maximum of 75cm carapace length and weighing a maximum of 50 kg. The adult has an oval carapace that is almost as wide as it is long and is usually olive-gray in color. The carapace has five pairs of costal scutes. In each bridge adjoining the plastron to the carapace are four inframarginal scutes, each of which is perforated by a pore. The head has two pairs of prefrontal scales. Hatchlings are black on both sides. Kemp’s ridley has a triangular-shaped head with a somewhat hooked beak with large crushing surfaces. This turtle is a shallow-water feeder with a diet consisting primarily of crabs.
Juvenile turtles tend to live in floating sargassum seaweed beds for their first years. Then they range between northwest Atlantic waters and the Gulf of Mexico while growing into maturity. These turtles change color as they mature. As hatchlings, they are almost entirely a dark purple, but mature adults have a yellow-green and a grey-green carapace. They reach maturity at the age of 10-12.