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This post at Mental Floss stated that a group of tortoises is called a 'Creep'. I had never heard of that before, and in trying to find the references for the name, I was surprised that I couldn't actually find anything.
Wikipedia showed no results in either of their lists for animal names.
Neither did the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/about/faqs/animals/names.htm
The closest I found was that a group of turtles is called a nest or a bale.
Is there an actual source for what a group of tortoises is called?
Creep is correct. I sent an email asking this question to The Tortoise Group, which is a non-profit organization whose mission statement is:
Improving the lives of wild and desert tortoises through education.
The Executive Director replied:
It's a bale for turtles and a creep for tortoises. I am sure they could have come up with a better name!
If you have additional questions, there's a wealth of scientific information on their website.
What I found was that creep is a collective noun. The professor Peter Trudgill uses the word in a chapter about collective nouns and the example is of tortoises. I don't know what book to tell you to look in though. He is professor of sociolinguistics. From a search on collective nouns for animals, turtles, and reptiles, I only found turtles having the following collective nouns: bale, nest, turn, dole.
My guess is then that Peter Trudgill made up the word and some people have adopted it or it is primarily an English (England) word.
- collective noun list two
I believe I found the source. In Geology, a creep is defined as a slow moving mass. By borrowing the word creep from Geology, one can accurately describe a group of tortoises.
I have worked in various parts of the world in sales of engineering equipment, but have always been involved in animal conservation, especially for turtles and tortoises.
One of my previous employers, now an engineering company was originally purveyor of turtle meat to HM Queen Victoria. They provided the Green Turtle Soup entrée for Queen Victoria's Coronation Banquet, and for the Royal Family in general up to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, who also had green turtle soup at her coronation banquet. It was not on ration points. The company had the royal warrant.
I'm afraid the general terms for tortoise and turtle in English come from the meat trade.
A "creep" originated in the Galapagos, where the tortoises were hunted often to extinction, by sailing ships crews, whaling or other, and even HMS Beagle.
Once on board a creep became a bale, also the usual description for sea turtles caught by nets, and stored, like their land cousins in tightly bound nets. There was a number of individuals and weight for a bale. There was a market standard for different species - say 4 Leatherbacks per bale, 6 Green per bale. Green turtles were favoured as they had tasty meat but did not expire quickly.
If the animals were caught by bill hook or harpoon they were put in a 'drag bale', thus injured they would be the first consumed by the crew. Those captured at sea or on land put in nets were "bales" (uninjured) when landed. Galapagos Tortoise may be one per bale.
There were markets all over the world; in London, it was Billingsgate for the meat, and for the shell it was Lower Thames Street. Turtles were delivered live to restaurants. Generally, the voyage and the occasional wash with water had purged them. Shell and meat would then be subdivided with other terminology, depending on the quality of species meat and shell.
Obviously, there are many other terms for chelonian meat and shell in other languages - florid descriptions in China and French/Creole on the East Coast of America for the Diamond Back Terrapin and the alligator and common snapping turtle, for instance.
I obtained this information from an old employee of the former employer's green turtle soup restaurant at a company dinner in London. No, we did not have turtle soup, and I did not kill him. He was a really nice guy and a war hero with the London Scottish Regiment. For the shell business, I know something from another of my employers. We were involved in trading heavy equipment to the former Soviet Union. Our offices were next to the dreadful fur trade warehouses on Lower Thames Street, which was next to the Turtle Shell Exchange (this may not be the correct title of the market).
My point is that our naturalist forbears took collective nouns, in this case, from general parlance. They were generally scientists. Conservationists came later. I think the collective noun was thus applied outside the tortoise/turtle trade to all species by English speakers.
Tortoise is a land-dwelling reptile belongs to the order Testudines. Tortoises are shielded by a shell to protect from predators like their aquatic cousins. The top part of the shell is hard which made up of carapace and plastron available under this shell. These two are connected with the bridge. The tortoises have both exoskeleton and endoskeleton. The size of the tortoises also varies from few centimeters to two meters.
Tortoises are the longest living land animal in the world but longest living species of the tortoise isn’t clear to anyone and it a matter of debate. The most of the species of tortoise can live 80-150 years. There is the lot of difference in the usage of common terms tortoise, turtle, and terrapin. These are the common names and do not exactly reflected the precise difference of biological or taxonomic.
Tortoise Scientific name: Testudinidae
The scientific name of the tortoise is Testudinidae. The researchers from the different countries are still disagreed to get this species in one class. The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists uses ‘turtle’ term to represent all species of the order Testudines. In Britain, the term ‘turtle’ is not used for all the species of order as they use terrapin for the larger group of semi-aquatic turtles. Now, Australia has the different opinion than Americans and British. Land tortoises are not commonly seen in Australia, yet traditionally freshwater turtles have been called ‘Tortoises’ in Australia.
The exact family of the prehistoric reptiles is still haven’t identified which turned into modern tortoises and turtles. But one thing is sure that it wasn’t the placodonts. Lately, some pieces of evidence are found which are pointed to the role of Eunotosaurus. It is a late Permian reptile that has wide, elongated ribs curved over its back. Eunotosaurus itself seems to have been belong to the pareiasaur which is an obscure family of ancient reptiles, the most notable member of completely unshelled (Scutosaurus).
Recently, some evidence is found which links fossil to the land-dwelling Eunotosaurus. That all changed after the two big discoveries in 2008. First was the Chinese paleontologists announced the discovery of Odontochelys which lived for the 50 million years earlier. The researchers have identified a late Triassic Proto-turtle named as Pappochelys that have the intermediate form between Odontochelys and Eunotosaurus and thus fills the important gap in the fossil record.
What does Tortoise eat? [Tortoise Diet]
Tortoises live around the world in the different habitats. So, they just adapt to the environment and live according to it. The variety in habitats from temperate forest to harsh, or deserts. Tortoises eat plants. Most of the species eat the flora in their local ecosystem and adopt the seasonal changes when needed. If you have a pet tortoise then you have to take care of its essential diet that would it eat in the wild.
During the rainy season, the tortoises are comfortable to feed grasses, shrubs, succulents, and herbs. But during the dry season, they don’t have the many options to eat. So, they feed dry plants materials and adding the rabbit feces in their diet. The desert tortoises are completely herbivorous. They have the mostly desert grasses, flowers, and leafy plants in their diet.
Types of Tortoise
Generally, the word tortoises used for the members of this reptile family found on the land. There is still confusion between using the terms like ‘turtle’ and ‘Tortoise’. Basically, the confusion creates due to the language problem. There is the difference in the language used by the American and British. The tortoises related to the order Testudines which is divided into two categories of groups – Cryptodira and Pleurodira.
The order Testudines got the 14 families of tortoises which together comprise 97 genera of this reptile species. In which, Cryptodira consists of 11 families whereas Pleurodira consists of 3 families.
The tortoises are the animals which name is still a matter of debate. The tortoises are living from the 250 million years as per records. Some of the researchers relate this species to the evolution of combination of one or two different dinosaurs. Here are the few common species that you can found one of them around you:
- African Spurred Tortoise
- Aldabra Tortoise
- Leopard Tortoise
- Russian Tortoise
- Sulcata Tortoise
- Red-Footed Tortoise
- Radiated Tortoise
- Malacochersus tornieri (Pancake Tortoise)
- Marginated Tortoise
- Gopher Tortoise
- Greek Tortoise
- Galapagos Tortoise
- Elongated Tortoise
- Hingeback Tortoise
- Yellow Foot Tortoise
- Desert Tortoise
A tortoise is a land-dwelling reptile from the order of Testudines. All tortoises are terrestrial. They live in the different type of habitats and adapt the things to live. The tortoises’ habitat can be deserts, arid grasslands, and scrub to evergreen forests, and from sea level to the mountainsides. Most of the species of tortoises live on the land but also some live in the fresh water. Tortoises found across the world in various habitats and conditions. They are also kept as the pets in many countries.
Tortoises adapt the changes in the environment around them. The tortoises are herbivores and consume their diet from its surroundings. The Tortoises have the slow metabolism rate. In wild, they have the carapace on their back which is hard. So, the tortoises use it as the shield to protect themselves from predators.
These magnificent creatures come in all shapes and size and it adapts the different environments easily. Here we will discuss the interesting and amazing facts about rep that you hardly know:
Some Interesting facts about Tortoises
- A Tortoise is a Turtle, but a turtle isn’t a tortoise
- Its shell is made up 60 different bones all connected to each other.
- Tortoises have well to all vision rounds are smell sense organs is very good.
- It is life for a very long time approximately 150 years. However, the age average is 90 to 150 years.
- Tortoise eggs incubate 90 to 12 days to hatch out.
- Tortoises can’t swim but they can hold their breath for a long time.
- It can smell with the throats.
- The first spacecraft complete circle the moon and return safely to earth had the tortoise as the passenger.
- Tortoises are cold blooded – they get warm from the environment.
- Female tortoises are usually larger than the male tortoises.
- When the baby tortoise breaks out the shell, it called hatchlings.
- Tortoises can run as fast as 1mph (1.6 km/h).
Keeping tortoises as a pet is great because your kid really enjoys around. It can easily adapt to the environment of an area like hot and winter. It is very important to find out all the information about the species before getting it.
Tortoise Life Span [Tortoise Age]
Tortoises are one of the longest live animals, as some individual tortoises are known to live longer than 150 years. But an average lifespan of tortoise is between 90-150 years. The lifespan of the tortoise is also depended on the habitat and the environment in which they live. In the wild habitat, they can be the prey of the other animals as well. If they get the good conditions for the living then they can live more than 100 years without any doubt. The lifespan of the tortoise also depends on the species of the tortoise.
What is a Baby Tortoise called?
A baby tortoise is called hatchling. With the usage of the egg tooth its break the eggshell and come out. For the first few days, hatchings are very vulnerable and they depend on the embryonic sac for the nutrition until enough to find the food. Sometimes hatchlings wait to come out from the shell until all the embryonic sac is completely absorbed. In few cases, the sac leaked or damaged lead to the death the hatchling to death or die of infection.
In wild, most of the hatchlings are eaten by the predators like seabirds. But many conservancy organizations and zoos raise baby hatchlings to maturity.
What is a group of Tortoise called?
A group is Tortoises is called creep. But you won’t see the group of the turtles very often. They like to roam individual and you do not often see the group of turtles. You can see the mother tortoises are protective to their nests but until the hatch. After the hatchling, they don’t care about the young tortoises.
Are Tortoise Reptiles?
Yes, the tortoises belong to the reptile class because they have many similarities of the class invertebrates with dry scaly skin which lay the soft-shelled eggs on the land. They are cold-blooded and can’t regulate the temperate of the body internally. They consume the warm from the outer space or environment to keep warm their bodies. They are of the order Chelonian, in which all species of tortoises/ turtles relates. These are the ectothermic animals with scales and not have gills.
The structure of the tortoise is so similar to the reptiles. Both have the dry scaled skin and belong to the cold-blooded animals called reptiles. Both breathe air and can be found inland and fresh water.
Are Tortoise Amphibians?
Tortoises are not amphibians although they belong to the reptiles. It is not so hard to difference between amphibians and reptiles. Tortoise is the land-dwelling animal which is closely related to the turtles. Tortoise can’t swim in the water but they can stop breathing for a long time. The Amphibians have slimy, soft, and wet skin that dry out if not in water. Amphibians are never warm-blooded and even in the prehistoric time. The amphibians spend their most of the time underwater as they have the special counterparts to breathe underwater.
Are Tortoise Mammals?
A tortoise is a reptile, not a mammal. The reason behind to relate with the cold-blooded reptiles is tortoise have many similarities with the reptiles. The tortoises are also cold-blooded and this is the reason why they are active in daylight and not too much in the night. The tortoises are the land animal which can’t swim in the water all the time. Most of the tortoises are herbivores and live long if cared well. The tortoises are vertebrates and have a backbone. The mammals able to regulate the warm in their bodies internally yet tortoises are unable to maintain the heat.
Tortoise Mating & Reproduction
The tortoise sexual maturity does not depend on the age but on the size. They are polygamous and mating with many partners. A female tortoise is able to store sperm in her cloaca and fertilize her eggs for up to four years after mating. The male tortoises become aggressive in the mating season. When another male encountered in the area, he attacks the head of the other for warning and stands tall and attacks. Courtship occurs in the summer and spring season. Male and female tortoises can be aggressive during this time, but the female usually gives in eventually.
The male tortoise circles the female and often nodding his head and biting at the edges of her carapace and at her legs. The female tortoise digs a burrow for laying eggs with her front legs, then backs in and enlarges the egg chamber with their back legs. She lay between 12 – 40 eggs in the chamber before covering the nest. She urinated on the nests to keep away predators from the eggs. Some females often found to guard their eggs until the hatchling which usually takes 80 to 120 days. The young ones will get no parental protection after hatchling.
What Is a Group of Turtles Called?
A group of turtles may be called a bale, turn, dole, or nest. The collective terms “bale” and “turn” seem to apply exclusively for turtles. Dole, on the other hand, may also be used to refer to another group of animals, which is a group (or flock) of doves. Groups of other reptiles, particularly snakes and vipers, as well as toads, wasps, termites, ants, and scorpions can also be called a “nest” collectively.
Turtles are among the oldest reptiles in the world, with experts estimating their species to being around since 220 million years ago. Among all vertebrates or animals with backbones, turtles are the only ones with a hard shell. Contrary to popular belief, a turtle shell is actually made of up to 61 bones that are covered with plates. The top part of a turtle’s shell is called a carapace while the bottom is called a plastron. Species of this animal can be found in a wide variety of habitats from small bodies of water in the park to arid, water-scarce deserts. Some species of this reptile can live up to 150 years old.
Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins: What’s the Difference?
It would be technically wrong to refer to this entire taxonomic family of reptiles as turtles, because these particular reptiles belong to subcategories such as turtles, tortoises, or terrapins. Experts refer to this family of reptiles as chelonians. Turtles are a particular group that spends most of their time in water such as sea turtles. Tortoises, on the other hand, live on land such as the Galapagos tortoise. Terrapins are at home both on water and on land, but don’t live far from a body of water.
Interesting Facts About Turtles
⁃ Some turtles have specialized senses and homing systems. So far, scientists haven’t been able to explain how these senses work. Sea turtles, for example, can travel thousands of miles across the sea on the same routes to return to the same beach every two to three years to lay their eggs. Their chosen nesting grounds also happen to be the same beach where they were born. Leatherback turtles, the largest sea turtle, are known to travel some 10,000 miles.
⁃ Turtle eggs are either oblong or round like ping pong balls. Some species will lay a few at a time, while others can lay more than 100 eggs.
⁃ Aquatic turtles have a variety of ways to stay underwater for long periods. Certain species pumps water through their throats and mouths where a special lining of blood vessels can extract oxygen.
⁃ There are a special group of turtles that can stay underwater for days at a time. They can accomplish this feat by breathing through their "cloaca." In layman's terms, the cloaca is the butt, which is why these kinds of turtles are referred to as butt-breathers.
⁃ Unlike in the cartoons, turtles are unable to come out of their shells. They are also unlikely to become too big for it as the shells grow along with them.
Collective Nouns and Terms of Venery
Collective nouns are words that call or represent a collection of people, animals and things of the same kind. While similar to count nouns, collective nouns are not quantified but are used to identify a group of similar people, animals, and objects as a single unit.
Collective nouns encompass a larger set of words that identify group. Words such as team, family, panel, and committee are all collective nouns. Words that are used to identify a group of animals, while still considered as collective nouns, are also called “terms of venery.” These words have a more interesting and fanciful history.
Terms of venery, literally meaning terms of hunting, is a practice of assigning a word to identify a group of similar animals. The practice dates as far back the late 1400s in a book that was written by Dame Juliana Berners about hunting and falconry.
Other Interesting Terms of Venery
Some might think that it is unusual to call a group of turtles as a bale or a turn. However, other terms of venery are even more unusual. The following are just some of them.
⁃ a murmuration of starlings
⁃ a flamboyance of flamingos
⁃ an incredulity of cuckolds
⁃ a bloat of hippopotamuses
Some unusual collective nouns are also used on a particular group of people. These include a “misbelief” of painters, a “damning” of jurors, and a “superfluity” of nuns.
Meta description: Find out what a group of turtles are called. More than just collective nouns, terms for groups of animals are on a league of their own.
Tortoise evolution: How did they become so big?
Fossil tortoise at the Central Natural Science Collections at MLU. Credit: Markus Scholz / MLU
The evolution of giant tortoises might not be linked to islands, as has previously been thought. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from Argentina and Germany have presented the most comprehensive family tree of extinct and extant tortoises so far. Analysing genetic and osteological data from living species and fossil tortoises, they have revised the evolution of tortoise—their gigantism evolved on multiple occasions on the mainland. The findings will appear in the next issue of Cladistics.
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 tortoises. Some species evolved large body sizes with a shell length exceeding one metre, whereas others are no larger than six to eight centimetres. Despite a particular interest from naturalists since the time 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, which probably evolved its 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 on islands, but researchers have 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 have 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 global-scale study to investigate 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, and North and South America at different periods 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 shortages 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. If island insularity is not the driving evolutionary influence, what is driving tortoises to repeatedly develop gigantism?
"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 says.
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 better able to 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 says.
Ask the Expert Questions and Answers
Without a doubt, the burrow is the most important feature of gopher tortoise biology. In east-central Florida, burrows average 4.5 m (15 ft.) long and 2 m (6 ft.) deep. The tortoise digs the burrow at about a 30° angle from the surface. Having a burrow provides many advantages for the tortoise, such as protection from predators, fire, and the weather. The burrow has a fairly constant environment that is not too hot, too cold, too humid, or too dry. This is very important for a cold-blooded animal that is at the mercy of the elements. The open sandy area in front of the burrow, called the apron, is often used by the female tortoises for a nest site.
There are many factors in our world that threaten the gopher tortoise's existence. Several years ago, one of the biggest problems was that people enjoyed having tortoises as pets. They would take them from the wild and keep them at home. Even though these animals were usually treated well, they could not reproduce and add new tortoises to the population. Tortoise racing was also popular years ago, but the animals were rarely returned to their original home ranges after the races were over. Since becoming protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, keeping tortoises as pets, racing them, or removing them from their home ranges is illegal.
Today, the greatest threat to the survival of the gopher tortoise is habitat destruction. Tortoises can not live if they do not have undeveloped land with plenty of food and room to dig their burrows. Another less obvious threat that is related to development is land fragmentation. Buildings, roads, borrow pits, landfills, parking lots, and all other kinds of facilities break the natural habitat into pieces, resulting in fewer large parcels of land. It is difficult for a tortoise to go about its business without coming into contact with humans, or worse yet, their automobiles. Road mortality is believed to be one of the greatest causes of adult tortoise deaths.
The gopher tortoise is legally protected throughout its range. In the western portion (Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama west of the Tombigbee River and Mobile River), it is federally listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In the eastern portion of the range (the rest of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida), it is protected by the states, but has been designated as a Candidate species for federal listing. Protection means that tortoises cannot be directly or indirectly harmed, or interfered with in any way (including providing food, water, etc.). Permits are required to possess, study, or relocate them.
NOTE: The vegetation is very thick and there is little open space . no food for tortoises, scrub jays or most other scrub inhabitants.
|In east-central Florida, land fragmentation has another effect that indirectly harms tortoises. When the land is broken up by concrete, it can no longer burn in a natural manner. Central Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, and in the summer months, severe thunderstorms can oftern start wild fires. Before so much of the area was developed and heavily populated, these fires could burn thousands of acres before they would go out. Now, when a fire starts sweeping across the landscape, it soon runs into something that acts as a firebreak, or it is put out by humans who need to protect their property. The phenomenon of a natural fire that is important to the health of the ecosystems can no longer happen. Without fire, vegetation grows very tall and thick. Little sunlight can reach the ground, and herbs that are the primary food source for tortoises can not live in the shade.|
Additional controlled burn information can be found in our articles on Scrub Ecosystems and the Enchanted Forest Burn.
|After a few years without fire, much of the habitat becomes unsuitable for tortoises. Even though the land appears to be "natural", it can not provide the things that tortoises need to live. The lack of fire is also detrimental to many other species of wildlife that depend on habitats that evolved with fire, such as the Florida scrub-jay, eastern indigo snake, and Florida scrub lizard.|
Problem from Exotics
Another factor that has negatively influenced tortoise populations, as well as many other species of native wildlife, is the introduction of exotic plants and animals. Vegetation, such as Brazilian pepper, Australian pine, and melaleuca have been brought to Florida by humans, either purposely or by accident. They often are successful in our warm weather and good growing conditions, and soon take over much of the habitat that would normally belong to our native plants. Non-native animals such as feral pigs, cats, dogs, and exotic lizards also take a toll on wildlife by killing individuals, eating eggs and young, and competing with native species for resources.
- Learn more about gopher tortoises and tortoise habitat so you can teach others. Good information sources include the library, zoo, and the Gopher Tortoise Council, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (website address below). .
- Discourage your friends and neighbors from taking tortoises or moving them to new homes. Although a person might feel he is doing the right thing by rescuing a tortoise from a bad situation, there are many reasons why it is not a good practice. Any tortoise problems can be referred to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Learn about the beneficial effects of fire and other management tools that can keep the landscape in a healthy state for our native plants and wildlife.
- Remember that conservation of land is not enough, because in order for land to truly be conserved, it must be properly managed.
- Last of all, be an informed, educated voter. Support city and county officials who value our natural resources as much as they value economic growth. With forward thinking and good planning, it is possible to have both.
Try doing a search for Gopher Tortoise on any Search Engine. You'll find lots of interesting sites.
Investigating castaway gopher tortoises of Cumberland Island
They're castaways, isolated for decades on an island off the Georgia coast. Their ancestors were probably captured and taken there to be lunch and dinner for the earlier, more powerful residents of the island.
But life is pretty good for them these days. Now left pretty much undisturbed on Cumberland Island National Seashore, they're free to go about their usual business of being gopher tortoises.
"That's what they say in life, right? It's all about timing," said John Enz, an associate professor of biology at Jacksonville University.
He was part of a group that spent much of June on Cumberland Island, covering its entire length to learn more about the gopher tortoises there, an estimated 150 to 175 of them.
The creatures cannot swim, so they most likely didn't get there by themselves.
Enz strongly suspects they were brought over as food for islanders, back when gopher tortoise was a popular menu item in the Southeast, the only place on Earth where they live.
Once that taste fell out of favor - the stocky, land-dwelling, vegetarian reptiles are now a protected species - the animals were left to their own devices on the mostly wild island.
That made them an ideal study subject, he said: "It's really exciting, in 2015, to find a group of anything that hasn't been studied. It's rare."
That work caught the attention of a national TV show on national parks, ABC's "Rock the Park," which featured the researchers on a program in October. Enz said he and his colleagues were nervous, but relaxed once the show's hosts began poking around in gopher tortoise burrows with them.
Enz hopes to go back every year to follow the Cumberland tortoises. The research could have implications for those in more developed areas, where they face being relocated when roads and houses and businesses take over the pine savannahs they favor.
Relocations now have a "moderate" rate of success, Enz said. What scientists find on Cumberland Island could help better figure how much room the tortoises need when they are moved.
That matters to more than the tortoises: They're called a keystone species because the burrows they dig provide shelter for more than 300 other species that depend on them.
Enz and JU sophomore Alexandria Gagne, a marine-science major from Michigan, were joined on the island by a professor and student from Maryville College in Tennessee. JU graduate student Danielle D'Amato was on the island, too, studying its small population of diamondback terrapins, which were also food for earlier residents.
Searchers found 400 gopher tortoise burrows on the island, half of which looked active. The tortoises generally keep to themselves, one to a burrow.
The team covered just about every bit of the island, all 18 or so miles of it. Nothing could be overlooked.
That meant crashing through thick brush rather than going through it. It meant crushing summertime heat, mosquitoes, spiny cactus.
The students did most of the grunt work, Enz readily acknowledged.
Gagne laughed. "When you're talking walking through the woods, if there's big brush, you have to walk through it, you can't walk around it for convenience. That's the method," she said. "You're getting cut up, scraped up, twigs in your hair."
They found tortoises in three main groups, including one near the famous Greyfield Inn. The biggest group was made up of about 75 spread over 100 acres at Stafford Field, used as a landing strip for private planes for wealthy families with homes on the island.
When a burrow was found, the researchers got its location on GPS, mapped it and set up a flag to mark it. They checked the temperatures inside and poked cameras down to see what was living there. Outside some burrows, they placed motion-activated game cameras to document what transpired when they weren't there.
"It's amazing, sometimes, what you see happening outside a gopher tortoise burrow after hours," Enz said, chuckling.
There are fights: between armadillos, and between armadillos and tortoises. There were various animals coming and going at all hours. And right outside the burrow is where gopher tortoises mate, said Enz, who - when asked - can do what one presumes is a good impersonation of a male gopher tortoise bobbing its head to entice a female out of its home.
When the scientists arrived on the island, they had just sketchy, anecdotal information about the tortoises. No one knew how many there were. No one knew what their health was like.
The animals can live 50 to 100 years, and Enz wondered if they were a viable, reproducing population, or just a remnant group doomed to dying off one by one.
The research team quickly found nests with eggs, along with juveniles tortoises and healthy adults. Left alone, Enz said, the castaway gopher tortoises of Cumberland Island are doing just fine.
Testudo (graeca) ibera is a medium-sized tortoise ranging from 18-21 cm (7-8 in) in length. Testudo graeca graeca is relatively small: 13-16 cm (5-6 in) (Hernández-Divers 2003). This species can measure up to 30 cm (12 in) in length (or more) with a maximum weight of approximately 6 kg (13 lb).
The carapace is brownish yellow with black patches. Testudo ibera is often paler in color than Testudo graeca, although darker populations do occur.
Testudo ibera has a flatter and broader carapace than Testudo graeca and the first vertebral scute is more angular in Testudo ibera compared to the more rounded shape in Testudo graeca.
|Testudo graeca can be distinguished from other members of genus Testudo by the presence of an enlarged tubercle (arrows left, click image to enlarge) on the medial thigh and an undivided supracaudal scute. Occasionally double or triple spurs are present, with one being obviously dominant. This species also lacks a horny terminal tip to the tail.|
HOW TURTLES AND TORTOISES USE THEIR SHELLS
A turtle's shell can be important in several ways. It can help the turtle protect itself from attacking animals. The shells of some turtles are so thick and strong that they can even resist the bite of a large crocodile. Other turtles, such as Asian river turtles, often dive very deeply, where the water pressure would be severe enough to crush their lungs if they were not protected by the shell. In turtles that live in very dry places, the shell provides a shield from the sun and helps the turtle keep from drying out too much. Tortoises, which live only on land, use their shells for yet another purpose. They collect rain in the crevices of their upper shells and then tip their bodies forward so the water runs down the sides and into their mouths.
Major zoos around the world have examples of many tortoise species. The San Diego Zoo, for example, received its first Galapagos tortoises in 1928 and now has a total of 16, including nine original members. Many zoos have Aldabra giant tortoises, including Zoo Atlanta. You can find examples of the African spurred tortoise at Zoo New England, and the Australia Zoo once housed Harriet, a giant tortoise that was brought to England by Darwin and lived to the age of 176 years.
Are Tortoises herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
Tortoises are mostly herbivores, but some species may consume small amounts of animal matter.
What Kingdom do Tortoises belong to?
Tortoises belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What class do Tortoises belong to?
Tortoises belong to the class Reptilia.
What phylum to Tortoises belong to?
Tortoises belong to the phylum Chordata.
What family do Tortoises belong to?
Tortoises belong to the family Testudinidae.
What order do Tortoises belong to?
Tortoises belong to the order Testudines.
What type of covering do Tortoises have?
Tortoises are covered in scales.
In what type of habitat do Tortoises live?
Tortoises live in sandy soil close to water.
What is the main prey for Tortoises?
Tortoises eat grass, weeds, and leafy greens.
What are some predators of Tortoises?
Predators of Tortoises include foxes, badgers, and coyotes.
How many babies do Tortoises have?
The average number of babies a Tortoise has is 5.
What is an interesting fact about Tortoises?
Tortoises can live until they are more than 150 years old!
How long does a tortoise live?
On average, tortoises can live for 80 to 150 years.
What is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?
All tortoises are turtles, but all turtles are not tortoises. Tortoises live only on land, and their limbs look like tiny elephant legs or clubs while other turtles have webbing at the extremities. Their carapaces, or upper shells, are usually very convex, or rounded, while other turtles have more streamlined shells.
Where does a tortoise live?
Tortoises primarily live in semi-arid regions, but they are found everywhere from the desert to the tropical rainforest. They are found on all continents except for Antarctica and Australia.
How big does a tortoise get?
The largest species of tortoise, the giant tortoise, boast shells that grow as long as 3.3 feet. The Galapagos giant tortoise can attain a weight of up to 920 pounds. Many other tortoise species are much smaller. The smallest, the padloper tortoise, has an average shell length of just 4 to 6 inches.
Do tortoises recognize their owners?
Tortoises are keenly intelligent animals and are often kept as pets. Over time, they can become familiar with their owners’ behaviors, sounds, and scents. They are capable of learning that the person who owns them is a source of food and safety, so they can become more trusting of particular people over time.
Turtle and Tortoise
Turtle, tortoise, and terrapin: what's the difference? All turtles, tortoises, and terrapins are reptiles. Scientists often refer to them as chelonians, because they are in the taxonomic order called Chelonia (from the Greek word for tortoise). They all have scales, lay eggs, and are ectothermic they vary in size from fitting in your hand to about 1,800 pounds (817 kilograms). Chelonians live everywhere from deserts to oceans to backyard creeks. So, why are there different names? Those common names usually refer to differences in where the reptiles live and how they use their habitat. Here are some generally accepted differences between the types of chelonians:
Turtle: Spends most of its life in the water. Turtles tend to have webbed feet for swimming. Sea turtles (Cheloniidae family) are especially adapted for an acquatic life, with long feet that form flippers and a streamlined body shape. They rarely leave the ocean, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs, although some, such as the green sea turtle, do come out on reefs and beaches to bask. Other turtles live in fresh water, like ponds and lakes. They swim, but they also climb out onto banks, logs, or rocks to bask in the sun. In cold weather, they may burrow into the mud, where they go into torpor until spring brings warm weather again.
Tortoise: A land-dweller that eats low-growing shrubs, grasses, and even cactus. Tortoises do not have webbed feet their feet are round and stumpy for walking on land. Tortoises that live in hot, dry habitats use their strong forelimbs to dig burrows. Then, when it’s too hot in the sun, they slip underground.
Terrapin: Spends its time both on land and in water, but it always lives near water, along rivers, ponds, and lakes. Terrapins are often found in brackish, swampy areas. The word “terrapin” comes from an Algonquian word for turtle.
Turtles and tortoises are a very old group of reptiles, going back about 220 million years. Of all wildlife with backbones, turtles are the only ones that also have a shell, made up of 59 to 61 bones covered by plates called scutes, which are made of keratin like our fingernails. The turtle cannot crawl out of it because the shell is permanently attached to the spine and the rib cage. The shell’s top is called the carapace, and the bottom is the plastron. Turtles can feel pressure and pain through their shells, just as you can feel pressure through your fingernails.
Some turtles can pull their heads, legs, and feet inside their shells they are known as "hidden-necked turtles.” In order to make room inside the shell, they sometimes have to exhale air out of their lungs, which makes a hissing sound. Other turtles can’t pull their legs or heads into their shells. Some of these have long necks and protect their heads by tucking them sideways into the shell. They are known as "side-necked turtles.” Tortoise shells aren’t as heavy as you might think. The shell contains many tiny air chambers, which makes it a little lighter.
Leatherback sea turtles and softshell turtles have a rounded, flattened carapace, and the entire shell is covered with tough, leathery skin supported by tiny bones. The shell’s bone elements are reduced, making the shell flexible for swimming and diving. Leatherback turtles dive up to 3,000 feet (900 meters) below the ocean surface at this depth, the incredible water pressure would crush a turtle with a heavy shell and less flexible body.
Turtles and tortoises do not have ears like ours, but they can feel vibrations and changes in water pressure that tell them where food, or a predator, might be. They do have a good sense of smell, which helps them find food. The skin of a turtle or tortoise, especially the land tortoises, may look leathery and tough, but it is actually very sensitive. In fact, wildlife care specialists at the San Diego Zoo have found that the Galápagos tortoises seem to enjoy having their necks rubbed.
Some turtles seem to have senses or instincts that we do not fully understand. Tracking equipment shows that some sea turtles migrate thousands of miles (kilometers) through the sea on regular routes, returning every two or three years to the same beaches to lay their eggs.
Aquatic turtles have some unique abilities that allow them to stay underwater. Some can pump water in and out of their mouth and throat, where the rich lining of blood vessels takes oxygen directly from the water. Some turtles can stay submerged for days at a time by moving water in and out of their cloaca to gain oxygen they are know in Australia as “bum breathers.” Large, webbed, paddle-like feet allow aquatic turtles to push through the water with ease. The Fly River turtle is the only freshwater turtle with true flippers like those of ocean-dwelling turtles.