What kind of tortoise is this?

What kind of tortoise is this?

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Can you help me to ID this tortoise? It was walking around near to my house and then my mom found it, so we'd like to know more info. Its Straight Carapace Length is about 5+ inches. Found it in mid-Mexico (Guanajuato state). Most part of the year we have a warm weather.

The front end of the plastron (the flat 'ventral' part of the shell) is hinged, so that the turtle can enclose itself almost completely, a characteristic of box turtles.

Box turtles are turtles of the genus Terrapene native to North America (United States and Mexico). They are also known as box tortoises, although box turtles are terrestrial members of the American pond turtle family (Emydidae), and not members of the tortoise family (Testudinidae). The twelve taxa which are distinguished in the genus are distributed over four species. They are largely characterized by having a domed shell, which is hinged at the bottom, allowing the animal to close its shell tightly to escape predators.

Your turtle certainly has a domed shell. There is a lot of wear and tear on the shell, but not so much on the plastron. Box turtles can live 100 years.

From the lack of coloration on the top part of the shell and the paucity of markings on the plastron, I think it is either a Three-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis), or a Mexican Box Turtle. The Mexican box turtle can grow slightly larger than the Three-toed box turtle. I can't really tell them apart. might help.

Their appearance is similar to that of the Three-toed Box Turtle.

The three-toes refers to the hind feet (which can also have four toes, to make matters worse.)

Three-toed box turtles have a domed shell which grows to an average 4.5 to 5 inches in length. The record shell length for this subspecies is 7 inches. The highest part of its carapace or upper shell is more posteriorly positioned than in the other subspecies. The dorsal and limb coloration is commonly completely absent, although some dark blotches are common in adult turtles. These areas more often being a uniform olive green or tan color.

From another site:

Shy and quiet are the traits of a Three-toed Box Turtle, both in its personality and in its coloring. Unlike the bold patterning and color seen on other eastern box turtles, the color of this species is quite subdued. Occasionally there will be a Three-toed that is more brightly colored, but for the most part they are a fairly uniform olive-brown to brown or horn color.

See also Reptiles & Amphibians

15 Types of Pet Turtles and Tortoises (With Pictures)

Turtles and tortoises are not the most active of pets. However, they are beautiful, friendly, curious, and awe-inspiring. Just watching them swim and move around in their habitat can be calming and help relieve stress. Kids can learn about patience and gentleness when caring for a turtle or tortoise.

There are quite a few different types of turtles and tortoises available on the market to take home as pets. But which are the most suitable for a human home life? We have put together a list of the 15 best turtles and tortoises to help make the job of choosing a perfect pet easier.

African Helmeted Turtle

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

The African helmeted turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa), also known as the marsh terrapin, is prevalent throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. While its shell can vary from black to tan, it has distinctly wide eyes and a mouth that appears to be perpetually smiling. However, don't be fooled by its friendly demeanor: The African helmeted turtle is omnivorous and will eat almost anything, including carrion. They have been witnessed drowning doves and other relatively large prey, dragging them to the depths of ponds to dine.

Adaptation of the legs to the medium

The legs of the turtles are one of the most important elements when determining whether you are facing a water turtle or a land turtle.

Taking into account that sea turtles remain constantly inside the water, it is logical that their legs are formed by a series of membranes that allow them to swim. These membranes, called interdigital membranes because they are between the toes, are easy to detect with the naked eye.

In the case of land turtles, they do not have these membranes but their legs are shaped like a tube and their fingers are more developed.

Another interesting difference is that sea turtles have long, pointed-toed nails while ground turtles are shorter and stunted.

Tortoise evolution: How did they become so big?

Tortoises are a group of terrestrial turtles globally distributed in habitats ranging from deserts to forests and include species such as the Greek and the Galapagos tortoise. Some species evolved large body sizes with a shell length exceeding 1 metre whereas others are no larger than 6-8 centimetres. Despite a particular interest from naturalists ever since the times of Darwin, the evolution of gigantism in tortoises remains enigmatic.

The fact that all living giant tortoises are insular may suggest that their evolution followed the so-called island rule: a trend toward dwarfism of large animals and gigantism of small animals on islands. An example of insular dwarfism is the Florida key deer, a dwarf version of the mainland white-tailed deer its small size may be an adaptation to the limited resources found on the islands. Insular gigantism is best exemplified by the famous dodo, an extinct flightless pigeon from Mauritius, probably evolving large body size due to release from predatory pressure. Previous studies on extant tortoises were partly inconclusive: giant size has been linked to the absence of predatory mammals in islands but it has been also proposed that tortoises were already giants when they reached the remote archipelagos. Since very few giant tortoise species survive to the present, these hypotheses are impossible to test without analysing extinct species through the help of the fossil record.

In a recent study in the journal "Cladistics," Dr Evangelos Vlachos from the Paleontological Museum of Trelew, Argentina, and Dr Márton Rabi from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), funded by the German VolkswagenStiftung, assembled the most comprehensive family tree of extinct and extant tortoises so far. The researchers analysed genetic data from living species together with osteological data from fossil and living tortoises.

This is the first study of such global scale to allow for investigating body size evolution in tortoises. The fossils reveal a very different picture of the past compared to the present. Giant size evolved on multiple occasions independently in mainland Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America at different times of Earth history. However, all of these species went extinct at latest during the Pleistocene ice age.

"The fossils highlight a great number of extinct mainland giant species and suggest that the evolution of giant size was not linked to islands," says Dr Evangelos Vlachos.

Instead, living insular giant tortoises, such as the ones from Galapagos and Seychelles, more likely represent survivors of unrelated giant species that once inhabited South America, East Africa, and/or Madagascar.

"Giant tortoises may have been better island colonizers because they can tolerate water and food shortage during an oceanic dispersal for a longer period than smaller species. Giant tortoises have been reported to survive 740 km of floating in the ocean," says Dr Márton Rabi.

What led to the extinction of these mainland giants remains enigmatic. For the ice age species, it may have been a combination of predatory (including human) pressure and climate change. It is likewise unclear, if not the island rule, then what is driving tortoises to repeatedly evolve into giant forms?

"We expect that warmer climate and predator pressure plays a role in the evolution of giant size but the picture is complex and our sampling of the fossil record is still limited." -- Vlachos adds.

An unexpected outcome of the study was that the Mediterranean tortoises (familiar due to their popularity as pets) actually represent a dwarf lineage as their ancestors turned out to be considerably larger.

"Tortoises have been around for more than 55 million years and we are now able to better understand the evolution of this successful group. Today, however, out of the approximately 43 living species 17 are considered endangered and many more are vulnerable largely due to human-induced habitat loss this is a disappointing fact." -- Rabi points out.


The tortoise is a land-dwelling reptile which is of the order Testudines.

Like their aquatic cousins, the turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell.

The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge.

The tortoise has both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton.

Tortoises can vary in size from a few centimetres to two meters.

Most land tortoises are herbivorous in the wild.

The carapace can help indicate the age of the tortoise by the number of concentric rings, much like the cross-section of a tree.

Males tend to have a longer, protruding neck plate than their female counterparts.

Tortoises are generally reclusive and shy.

Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years.

Most land based tortoises are herbivores, feeding on grazing grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers, and certain fruits.

Their main diet consists of alfalfa, clover, dandelions, and leafy weeds.

Galápagos giant tortoises show that in evolution, slow and steady gets you places

A drawing of Testudo abingdonii (now Chelonoidis abingdonii) from Darwin’s 1890’s book on his Beagle adventure. Illustration: C. Darwin, 1890.

A drawing of Testudo abingdonii (now Chelonoidis abingdonii) from Darwin’s 1890’s book on his Beagle adventure. Illustration: C. Darwin, 1890.

Last modified on Wed 14 Feb 2018 20.50 GMT

“As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull-coloured birds cared no more for me, than they did for the great tortoises.”

On a hot September day in 1835, Charles Darwin met his first giant tortoise on Chatham Island, part of the Galápagos archipelago. After visiting other islands in the archipelago, he came to realize that each island had its own, but slightly different giant tortoise. This was already known by the natives, who could distinguish the tortoises from different islands, but Darwin was struck with wonder (he even brought some tortoises back to Europe as pets). Eventually, his wonder forever changed our understanding of the natural world.

The Galápagos giant tortoise species complex (Chelonoidis nigra) forms an example of an adaptive radiation a rapid diversification of a lineage when a new food source or ecological niche becomes available. The first giant tortoises are thought to have reached the islands two to three million years ago from South America (Caccone et al., 2002), and subsequently spread through the archipelago as new land emerged from the volcanic sea floor. At one point there were 15 different species (or subspecies, this is a matter of discussion, see Poulakakis et al., 2015). Three of them are now extinct, and scientists are struggling to save the remaining ones.

Together with the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantean) from the Aldabra atoll (part of the Seychelles) in the Indian Ocean, the Galápagos giant tortoises are the only remaining representatives of the giant tortoises that were once widespread across the globe. Although their enormous size has been interpreted as an adaptation to island life, fossil remains of giant tortoises found across the Americas, Eurasia and Africa show that large size was present in continental tortoises as well. The largest of them all was Megalochelys atlas from the Siwaliks Hills in northern India and Pakistan (Falconer & Cautley, 1844), which grew to the size of a small car. Since the Pleistocene era, at least 36 species have gone extinct (Hansen et al., 2010), many of them, especially those on islands, because of human impact.

But how did these gentle giants manage to reach islands across hundreds of kilometers of open sea? Most of the islands they (once) inhabit(ed), such as the Mascarenes and the Canary Islands, are volcanic in origin and have never been connected to the continent by dry land. In contrast to their cousins, the turtles, tortoises are not particularly adept at swimming and it is unlikely that they swam their way across. However, giant tortoises are excellent at bobbing along with their heads held up high by their long neck. In combination with the ability to go without food or water for weeks on end (a feature heavily exploited by early sailors and one that contributed to their demise), the fact that females can store sperm for several years (Pearse & Avise, 2001), and a favorable sea current, the world was their oyster.

In 2004, an Aldabra giant tortoise washed ashore in Tanzania, 740 km from home (Gerlach et al., 2006). Although it was emaciated and covered in goose barnacles, indicating that it had spent at least weeks at sea, it managed to survive the sea crossing. Given this ability for long-distance oceanic dispersal, giant tortoises must have been often among the first large, non-volant vertebrates to colonize islands. In the absence of other herbivores, such as bovids and deer, their presence shaped these isolated ecosystems. For instance, native plants in the Mascarenes developed several adaptations, such as serrated leafs and leafs with red venation, to deter tortoise browsing (Cheke & Hume, 2010).

Despite the evidence from the fossil record, genetics, ecology and observational records for the ability of trans-oceanic dispersal, some researchers have questioned whether the occurrences of giant tortoises on certain islands are natural after all. The giant tortoises of the South West Indian Ocean (Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Mascarenes) are thought to be closely related and share an African origin. Wilmé et al. (2016) argues that the colonization of the Seychelles and the Mascarenes (including Mauritius) in the South West Indian Ocean by giant tortoises from Africa or Madagascar was unlikely to have happened naturally, as present ocean currents in the South West Indian Ocean flow mainly east to west, making it difficult for a non-swimming animal to disperse against the current. They argue it is more likely that early Austronesians that colonized Madagascar from Southeast Asia translocated giant tortoises to islands in the western Indian Ocean

4000 years ago as part of a suite of domesticated animals and crops.

The subfossil skull of an extinct giant tortoise from Mauritius, estimated to be at least 4200 years old. Photograph: Hanneke Meijer

However, many other scientists were quick to point out that there is no evidence that suggests that Austronesians, or any other humans, were involved in the original distribution of giant tortoises to the Mascarene or Seychelles (Hansen et al., 2016 Cheke et al., 2016. While Austronesians may have taken chickens and various crops from the Sunda Islands to East Africa and Madagascar (Boivin et al., 2013), there is no archaeological evidence that they ever visited the Mascarenes or the Seychelles. Moreover, remains of fossil giant tortoises from Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles indicate that giant tortoises were present long before humans. Furthermore, the southwestern Indian Ocean is a geologically active region. Particularly during the last million years, sea level, geology and bathymetry have changed dramatically and suggest that past ocean currents differed from the predominant east-west flowing present ones. Transoceanic dispersal from Africa or Madagascar to the smaller islands in the Indian Ocean may therefore have been much more likely in the past then it is today.

Boivin, N., et al., 2013. East Africa and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean world. Journal of World Prehistory 26:213–281.

Caccone, A., et al, 2002. Phylogeography and history of giant Galápagos tortoises. Evolution 56:2052–2066.

Cheke, A.S. & Hume J. P., 2008. Lost Land of the Dodo. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Cheke, A.S., et al., 2016, Giant tortoises spread to western Indian Ocean islands by sea drift in pre-Holocene times, not by later human agency – response to Wilmé et al. (2016a). Journal of Biogeography, in press.

Falconer, H. & Cautley, P.T., 1844. Communication on the Colossochelys atlas, a fossil tortoise of enormous size from the Tertiary strata of the Siwalk Hills in the north of India. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1844(12):54–84.

Gerlach, J., et al., 2006. The first substantiated case of trans-oceanic tortoise dispersal. Journal of Natural History 40:2403-2408.

Hansen, D.M., et al., 2016. Origins of endemic island tortoises in the western Indian Ocean: a critique of the human-translocation hypothesis. Journal of Biogeography, in press.

Pearse, D. & Avise, J., 2001. Turtle mating systems: behavior, sperm storage, and genetic paternity. Journal of Heredity 92:206–211.

Poulakakis, N., et al., 2015. Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species (Chelonoidis Testudines: Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138779.

Wilmé, L., et al., 2016, Human translocation as an alternative hypothesis to explain the presence of giant tortoises on remote islands in the south-western Indian Ocean. Journal of Biogeography 44: 1–7.

Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)

Description: The Gopher Tortoise is the only tortoise in the Southeast and can easily be distinguished from the box turtle (our only other fully terrestrial turtle) by its large size, rigid, unhinged plastron (bottom of shell) and its stumpy, unwebbed feet. Adult Gopher Tortoises are large 9-15 in (24 - 38 cm) and are tan or brown above with a yellowish plastron. The juveniles can be yellowish and brightly patterned. Males have a concave plastron and longer tail than females.

Range and Habitat: Gopher Tortoises are found in the Lower Coastal Plain of the Southeast, from southern South Carolina to Louisiana and throughout Florida. This species prefers well-drained sandy areas (in which it can burrow) and is absent from extensive wetland area (e.g., the Everglades and Okefenokee). It was a resident of the fire-dependent longleaf pine belt that is now highly fragmented. Now it persists only in areas where the canopy is open enough to allow for a dense understory on which it can feed.

Habits: Gopher tortoises dig extensive burrows where they spend the majority of their time. They emerge in warm weather to feed on a variety of vegetation. Tortoise burrows can extend over 45' long and provide shelter for the tortoise as well as hundreds of other species, including endangered indigo snakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, gopher frogs and burrowing owls. For this reason, Gopher tortoises are considered keystone species. Mating occurs in the spring and nesting follows in April-July. Nests consist of 2-7 eggs in a 5" deep cavity that is sometimes at the mouth of the females burrow. The eggs hatch from August to September. Gopher tortoises grow slowly, taking 10 - 20 years to reach maturity, and may live to be 50 years or older. Because of its slow rate of growth and reproduction this species can take decades to recover from population declines.

Conservation Status: The Gopher Tortoise is a federally endangered species and has declined in many areas due to habitat loss or degradation. It is protected to some degree by every state in its range. Only careful monitoring and proper legislation can assure the survival of this keystone species in the wild. A greater monetary value must be placed on the ecological function of these animals and the ecosystems in which they are present. This imperiled reptile can certainly be managed for and luckily this management is compatible with quail hunting which is vastly popular in the southeast. Gopher Tortoises have recently been reintroduced to the Savannah River Site and research is currently underway to determine how to most successfully reestablish this species.

Pertinent References:
Tuberville, T. D ., E. E. Clark, K. A. Buhlmann and J. W. Gibbons. 2005. Translocation as a conservation tool: site fidelity and movement of repatriated gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus). Animal Conservation 2005(8):349-358.

Smith, R. B., T. D. Tuverville, A. L. Chambers, K. M. Herpich and J. E. Berish. 2005. Gopher tortoise burrow surveys: external characteristics, burrow cameras, and truth. Applied Herpetology, 2: 161-170.

Tuberville, T. D. and M. E. Dorcas. 2001. Winter survey of gopher tortoise populations in South Carolina. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4:182-186.

Account Author: Matthew King, University of Georgia - edited by J.D. Willson

hatchling gopher tortoise


G. berlandieri is found from southern Texas southward into the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.

The specific epithet, berlandieri, is in honor of naturalist Jean Louis Berlandier, who worked for the Mexican government on one of the first biological surveys of Texas. [1] [2] As such, some sources refer to it as Berlandier's tortoise. [2] [3]

The Texas tortoise, unlike other species of gopher tortoise, is not an adept burrower. Its preferred habitat is dry scrub and grasslands. Succulent plants, a preferred food of the Texas tortoise, are common in these areas. It especially likes the fruit of cacti such as the prickly pear.

Though considered an animal of low concern by the IUCN Red List, the Texas tortoise is listed as a threatened species in the state of Texas, and thus protected by state law. It is illegal to collect or possess them. The Mexican federal government list Gopherus berlandieri as A (= Threatened) in Mexico. [4] Likewise, using Environmental Vulnerability Scores, Gopherus berlandieri scored 18, a high vulnerability species on a scale of 0-20, in evaluations of both Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon herpetofauna. [5] [6] In 2018, the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group recommended a re-assessment and re-classification of all six Gopherus species [7] This reclassification would move G. berlandieri from Near Endangered (NE) to Near Threatened (NT). [7]

Texas tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri), Val Verde Co, Texas, USA (2005).


1. Type of poisonous snake found in the midwest, named for the color of its head
2. Reptiles have ____ loop circulation
3. Order that includes lizards and snakes
7. Snake that has heat sensing abilities pit ____
8. Type of crocodilian that lives mainly in North and South America (found in freshwater)
9. Class that includes turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles.
10. A shelled reptile that lives mainly on the land and is very slow moving
13. The type of egg reptiles have
14. This reptile has a shell and tends to live in the water
15. Type of lizard that has a sticky tongue to catch prey, some can even change colors

2. Group of large reptiles that became extinct
4. A type of turtle that is found in salt water
5. Reptiles convert waste (ammonia) into ____ acid
6. Lizards that produce venom ___ monster
11. Type of constricting snake that can become very large
12. Rare type of reptile that has a "third eye"
16. An animal that lays eggs that develop outside the mother's body (like a sea turtle)
17. The part of the egg that provides food for the embryo
18. Describes and animal whose body temperature changes with its surroundings (cold-blooded)
19. Organ used by reptiles to get oxygen