Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
The name of the animal in science
The animal group that the species belongs to
What kind of foods the animal eats
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
How long the animal lives for
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
|Grey, Brown, Black, Yellow, Green|
The protective layer of the animal
The preferred food of this animal
The specific area where the animal lives
|Sandy soil close to water|
|Average Litter Size:|
The average number of babies born at once
The food that the animal gains energy from
|Grass, Weeds, Leafy greens|
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
|Fox, Badger, Coyote|
Characteristics unique to this animal
|Slow movement and hard, protective body shell|
The tortoises is a land-dwelling reptile closely related to the tortoise's marine cousin, the sea turtle. The tortoise is found in many countries around the world but particularly in the southern hemisphere where the weather is warmer for most of the year.
Tortoises have a hard outer shell to protect them from predators but the skin on the legs, head and belly of the tortoise is quite soft so the tortoise is able to retract its limbs into its shell to protect itself. The tortoise's shell can range in size from a few centimetres to a couple of metres, depending on the species of tortoise.
Most species of tortoise have a herbivorous diet eating grasses, weeds, flowers, leafy greens and fruits.Tortoises generally have a lifespan similar to the lifespan of humans although some species of tortoise, like the giant tortoise, have known to be over 150 years old.
There are many different species of tortoise around the world that vary in size, colour and diet. Most species of tortoise however, are diurnal but in places where it is very hot throughout the day, tortoises will often venture out to find food in the cooler dawn and dusk periods.
Female tortoises dig burrows, known as nesting burrows, in which the female tortoise lays her eggs. The female tortoise can lay between one and thirty eggs at a time but the number is generally around 10 and only a handful of the babies tend to survive as tortoise babies are very vulnerable to attack by all kinds of predators.
Once the female tortoise has laid her eggs she leaves the nesting burrow. The eggs hatch between 2 and 4 months later and the baby tortoises are able to start venturing out in search of food when they are about a week old. The size of the baby tortoise and the egg, depends on the size of the mother tortoise.
Today, a number of tortoise species (mainly the smaller species of tortoise) are kept as household pets. The pet tortoise ideally prefers to live in the garden or part of a vegetable patch where there is lots of food for the tortoise to eat. Pet tortoises should have a diet similar to what it would be if the tortoise was in the wild and should not be fed other foods such as cat or dog food.
Most species of tortoise, but not all, hibernate during the colder winter months particularly those species of tortoise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tortoises must have an empty stomach before they hibernate and therefore tend to go through a period of starvation beforehand. Tortoises come out of hibernation when the weather begins to get warmer again.
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First Published: 10th November 2008, Last Updated: 7th November 2019
1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 10 Nov 2008]
2. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2011]
3. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 10 Nov 2008]
4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2009]
5. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 10 Nov 2008]