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The Desert tortoise is an herbivore reptile that resists even when the temperatures grow to 60 degrees Celsius, because of its capacity to dig galleries. This turtle spends its entire life in those galleries that offer shelter during the cold season, from November to march. The galleries can be simple, but also complex, spread on a few meters. The desert turtle can have tens of hideouts of this kind. Those can be used, in different periods, by several tortoises.
The desert tortoise weights 5-9 kilograms and it measures 40 centimeters or even more. The shell is high, and the growing lines are highlighted. The superior part of the carapace is rounded and brown, and the inferior line is flat and yellow. It has a big head compared with the body, and a short tale. The inferior members are strong, while the superior ones are flat, as this way, it is easier to dig.
When the tortoise is scared, or when she wants to avoid dangers, the tortoise makes some sounds that have the goal to scare the predator. The visual and smell senses are well developed, but the sounds are of low frequency, so they are rarely effective.
The desert tortoise lives about 80-100 years, which is a record even for tortoise. They reach maturity after 15-20 years. From November to March, this tortoise hibernates. Those reptiles are well adapted to the dry land where they live. They dig basins where they collect rainwater, and they can wait for days for it to fill. In the rest of the year, they take the water necessary from the moisture on grass and wild flowers that they eat during the spring. It is interesting that this reptile can live one year without drinking water.
The natural habitats of this tortoise are the rocky areas from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, and in Southeastern California. It eats weed and wild flowers, cactuses and fruits, especially during the spring, when they get out of hibernation.
The number of eggs lay by the female varies considering the dimensions of the female. A mature female can lay eight eggs in a nest. In one season, the female can make two-three nests. Once the eggs are in the hole, the nest is covered with sand. The incubation period is of 90-120 days. A phenomenon is interesting, because considering the temperature of the environment, males can hatch (26-30 degrees), or females (30-33 degrees). It is one of the fewest species that has this characteristic. Moreover, the desert tortoise is one of the fewest that actually watches the nest. Even if the nests are situated far from the “residence” of the mother, they are protected under a tree or in the shadows of a rock.
The baby tortoises grow considering the quantity of food that they have at their disposal and they are not defended and fed by their parents. In one year, their carapace can create more rings, so their age can’t be established using these criteria. It is a protected species since 1990.
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Characteristics of the Radiated Tortoise
Characteristics of the Sulcata Tortoise