Olive ridley turtle

Lepidochelys olivacea

Description

The olive ridley is the smallest of the marine turtles and has a round, grey to olive-grey carapace (shell) and has a cream-coloured plastron (bottom of shell). Its carapace is domed from the front and is shaped like a heart. Hatchlings are black and have a light brown plastron.

Distribution and habitat

Olive ridley turtles occur in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans. In Australia, they are found in soft-bottomed, shallow, protected waters from southern Queensland, around northern Australia to Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in Western Australia.

Olive ridley turtles feed in continental shelf waters on food that includes crabs, echinoderms, shellfish and gastropods.

Breeding areas

There are two main breeding areas for olive ridley turtles in Australia, one in the Northern Territory with about 1000 nesting females per year, and the other in the Gulf of Carpentaria with less than 100 nesting females per year. No nesting by the species has been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Olive ridley turtles are uncommon in the Great Barrier Reef and have received little scientific attention and the long-term trend in the population of the species on the Reef is unknown.

The species has been little studied within Australia and much of its life history, breeding and population biology, and migration patterns remain unknown.