Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

October 20, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Photo: Dennis Paulson

Name: Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Order: Turtles (Testudines)
Family: Sea Turtles (Cheloniidae)

What they look like

  • Olive ridleys are also known as Pacific ridleys.
  • They have a smooth slightly tall shell that can be up to 30 inches in length.
  • Although they are one of the smallest sea turtles, they can weigh up to 100 pounds.
  • The tails of males stick out past their shell while those of females do not.

Where they live

  • Can be found in subtropical and tropical waters of the Pacific, Indian, and southern Atlantic oceans.
  • They spend most of their time in shallow soft-bottomed seas near the shore, where they feed and sunbathe. However, they also spend a lot of time out in the open ocean as well.

What they eat

  • Primarily feed on jellyfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp, but will also eat algae when their main other foods are lacking.


  • Sometime during a night of high tide between June and December, females will return to the beach they were born to lay their eggs.
  • Hundreds or even thousands of females will arrive around the same time on the same shore in what is called an “arribada”.
  • Females dig a nest 30 to 55 centimeters deep and lay around 107 eggs, which will hatch around 50 days later.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Sometimes the density of arribadas is so high, that females will dig out previously-laid nests to lay their own nests.
  • “Arribada” means “arrival by sea” in Spanish.


  • Even though olive ridleys are the most abundant of all sea turtles, their numbers are declining rapidly. Atlantic populations are considered endangered and all other populations are considered threatened. Main threats include hunting of females during arribadas for their meat, skin, and eggs, and accidental entanglement and subsequent drowning in fish and shrimp nets, and pollution.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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