The genus name is derived from the Greek words lepidos, meaning scale, and chelys, which translates to turtle. This could possibly be a reference to the supernumerary costal scute counts characteristic of this genus. The etymology of the English vernacular name "olive" is somewhat easier to resolve, as its carapace is olive green in color. However, the origin of "ridley" is still somewhat unclear, perhaps derived from "riddle". Lepidochelys is the only genus of sea turtles containing more than one extant species: L. olivacea and the closely related L. kempii (Kemp's ridley).
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