Everybody knows the story about the hare and the tortoise and this creature’s awesome win by sheer steadiness. However, there is much more to know about these magnificent land-dwelling reptiles.
Fact 1 Different Kinds Of Tortoises
The scientific name of tortoises is Geochelone Elegans and belongs to the reptile category. It is a cousin of the sea turtle. Tortoises are found in many countries but they prefer to live in places that are warm during most of the year. The giant tortoises found in the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Galapagos Islands are most famous among them all. Other varieties include the North American Gopherus genus, Gopherus Agassizii of the deserts from South Nevada to North-West Mexico, G. Berlandien tortoise of Texas that live in the open woods and other kinds found in the sandy areas of Florida, and the Atlantic and U.S Gulf coasts.
Fact 2 Description and Size
The shells of the tortoises are very hard and are made of 60 types of bones. They are all connected to each other. The topmost part of the shell is known as “carapace” and the underside is referred to as the “plastron”. These are connected by a bridge. The skin of the tortoises on the head, belly and legs are very soft. The clubbed feet have short toes that enable them to walk on land. The limbs have a covering of hard scales and tortoises have the ability to retract their heads as well as their limbs and tail into the shell when they smell danger. Although without teeth, the mouth of the tortoises are very strong that has horny beaks. They have sharp eyes and a good sense of smell. Their colors vary from brown, grey, black, yellow to green according to their habitat.
Tortoises vary in size and weight. Some are about 4ft long and weigh around 225kg while others are 5ft long and their weight is about 250kg. The desert tortoises are only 33cm long while the Texas tortoises are 21.6com long. Giant tortoises have a life-span of 100 to 150 years. Tortoises are cold-blooded vertebrates and so they draw the required heat from the ground and the environment where they live.
Fact 3 Food Habits
Tortoises are mostly herbivores and eat grasses, leafy greens, flowers, weeds and also fruits. In desert areas where it is extremely hot during the day, tortoises go out in search of food after sundown or early morning when the weather is bearable. Most tortoises hibernate throughout the winter.
Fact 4 Reproduction System
Nesting burrows are the nests built by female tortoises by digging burrows to lay their eggs. A female tortoise can lay about 30 eggs but usually there are 10 from which a few only survive. The size of the eggs varies according to the size of the mother tortoise and her species. After laying her eggs she leaves the nest. They are born within 2 and 4 months and when the baby tortoises are about a week old they go out in search of food.
Fact 5 Enemies of the tortoise
Pigs, goats, rats, cats, dogs and cattle are the main enemies or tortoises that eat up even their eggs. Today some species of tortoises are kept as pets and these are fond of strolling about the garden and living among the greenery where they can find food easily. Those who keep them at home should take care to give them only what they are supposed to eat and not the diets of other pets like dogs and cats.
Tortoises are now among the list of endangered species of animals. Years ago they were a source of food merchants, sailors, pirates and whalers. Now the governments of all countries have taken steps to protect them by law.