Hermanns tortoise

Testudo hermanni

TAXONOMY

Testudo hermanni Gmelin, 1789, no type locality given. Two subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a small tortoise (up to 10 in [26 cm] carapace length) with no plastral or carapacial hinge, a domed shell with the twelfth marginal scutes separate (i.e., not fused into a supracau-dal scute), a long narrow nuchal scute present, no enlarged tubercles on the thigh, a large horny scale on the end of the tail, five claws (usually) on the forefoot, and five to 10 longitudinal rows of small scales on the anterior surface of the foreleg.

DISTRIBUTION

Southern Europe from southeastern France to eastern Turkey and Romania.

HABITAT

Dry habitats with dense vegetation, from scrublands to woodlands.

BEHAVIOR

The males engage in combat during the breeding season, by ramming other males and/or by biting at their heads and legs. The species hibernates during the winter by burrowing underground.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

These tortoises are primarily herbivorous, feeding on legumes, buttercups, grasses, and fruits from trees. They also occasionally eat earthworms, snails, slugs, insects, and carrion.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Courtship and mating are apparently concentrated in the spring. Courting males chase the female, ramming her shell, biting at her head and legs, and finally mounting her shell from behind. While mounted, the male may make high-pitched squeaks. Flask-shaped nests 3 in (7-8 cm) deep are constructed in April to June. The clutch size ranges from two to 12 eggs and is related to female size, with small females in western populations having smaller clutches than the larger eastern females. Up to three clutches may be laid per season. The brittle-shelled eggs are usually elongate, measuring 1.1-1.6 in (28-40 mm) by 0.8-1.2 in (21-30 mm). Incubation takes 55 to 90 days. This species exhibits temperature-dependent sex determination, with females produced at high incubation temperatures and males at lower temperatures.

CONSERVATION STATUS

This species is noted as Lower Risk/Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, although the subspecies Testudo hermanni her-

manni is categorized as Endangered. The numbers of this tortoise are declining due to habitat destruction, wildfires, predation by feral animals, and removal for the pet trade.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These tortoises were once heavily exploited for the pet trade, but this occurs much less frequently today. ♦

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