Genus Lepidochelys

Fitzinger, 1843
Ridley turtles

The two species of Lepidochelys have heart-shaped carapaces with serrated posterior marginals, five to eight pleurals on each side, and, in some individuals, more than five vertebral scutes. Lateral fontanelles are absent in the adult carapace. There are 12-13 pairs of peripheral bones, and 12-15 neurals which are shortest anteriorly and either four sided or six sided. The rigid plastron has at best only a small intergular scute, and there are four pairs of pore-bearing inframarginals on the bridge. In the broad skull, the vomer separates the maxillae and touches the premaxillae. There is a ridge on the triturating surface of the maxilla, but not on that of the premaxilla. The descending processes of the prefrontals touch only the vomer. The frontal enters the orbit. No ridge occurs on the vomer or palatines. There are two pairs of prefrontals and three to four postocular scales on the head. The forelimbs are paddlelike with one to three claws.

Serological tests by Frair (1969, 1979) suggest that Lepidochelys and Caretta are closely related, and that both are more closely related to Eretmochelys than to Chelonia. Frair thought Lepidochelys to be the closest relative of ancestral sea turtles.

Species identification
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