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Testudinidae

Family Testudinidae is also known as tortoises and as such all tortoises belong to this family. Unlike the other families of order Testudines, tortoises are exclusively land dwellers. 

Testudinidae is part of the superfamily Testudinoidea, the order Testudines, the class Reptilia, the phylum Chordata, and the kingdom Animalia.

First described and named in 1758 by the Swedish taxonomist and biologist Carl Linnaeus, Testudinidae currently includes about 11 to 16 genera and 40 to 50 species, differing from one source to another. tortoises can be found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

They can be found on all the continents of the world except Australia. Tortoises can be found in all manners of terrestrial habitats, from deserts to rainforests. 

Tortoises are generally quite large compared to freshwater turtles. However, tortoises come in a wide range of sizes. The Galapagos giant tortoises can grow to over 4 ft in carapace length while the speckled dwarf tortoise reaches a carapace length of just 3 inches. 

Tortoises are among the long-living animals on earth with several species having lifespans of over 150 years. Most tortoises have lifespans of 80 to 150 years. 

Tortoises are also known for the slow speeds at which they move with the average movement speed of the tortoise being 0.1 to 0.3 miles (or 0.2 to 0.5 km) per hour. 

Testudinidae are generally herbivorous on feed mostly on weeds, grasses, flowers, leafy greens, succulents, sedges, and fruits. Turtles have been observed eating birds, insects, and worms.

However, this isn’t common. In captivity, feeding tortoises too much protein leads to medical problems including shell deformities such as pyramiding.

Tortoises generally have domed carapaces and hingeless plastrons. Some genera have hinged plastrons. These include Testudo and Pyxis.

The only genus known to have hinged carapaces is Kinitortoises. tortoises have thick legs and webless short feet with short digits.

The front limbs of these reptiles have heavy scales. Their rear limbs have just four digits on each foot. 

Table of Contents 

  1. Species in the Family Testudinidae
    1. Genus Centrochelys
    2. Genus Chelonoidis
    3. Genus Homopus 
    4. Genus Psammobates
    5. Genus Indotestudo
    6. Genus Gopherus
    7. Genus Testudo
    8. Genus Kinixys
    9. Genus Pyxis
    10. Genus Geochelone
    11. Genus Manouria
    12. Genus Astrochelys
    13. Genus Chersina
    14. Genus Malacochersus
    15. Genus Stigmochelys
    16. Genus Chersobius
  2. FAQ
  3. Conclusion

Species in the Family Testudinidae

Genus Centrochelys

1. African Spurred Tortoise 

African Spurred Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata) on dry sand in Fatick, Senegal
An African Spurred Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata) on dry sand in Fatick, Senegal. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Centrochelys sulcata / Geochelone sulcata
  • Length: 33 inches (83 cm)
  • Mass: 79 to 110 lb (36 to 50 kg)
  • Lifespan:  54 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered 

Centrochelys sulcata is a large turtle but interestingly enough they are popular pets. This is due to their ease of care. 

Centrochelys sulcata occurs in Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara desert.

As such, Centrochelys sulcata lives in an arid environment such as dry savannahs and desert fringes. This habitat has made them hardy.

Centrochelys sulcata is one of the largest tortoises in the world and the largest in mainland Africa.  Carapace is quite falletend and broad.

It is yellow to brown. The plastron is ivory in coloration. Their skin is yellowish-brown and thick. 

The species is herbivorous and mostly eats succulents. Succulents are also their main source of water. 

Genus Chelonoidis 

2. Cerro Azul Volcano Giant Tortoise 

Cerro Azul Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis niger vicina)photographed at America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, California by David Starner
A Cerro Azul Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis niger vicina)photographed at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, California by David Starner. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis niger vicina
  • Length: 36.6 to 46 inches (93 to 117 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

This species is endemic to the region around the Cerro Azul volcano which gives the species its common name. Incidentally, the domed C. guntheri is physically identical to this species. 

Males are a few inches larger than females. As with other Galapagos tortoises, the C. vicina has a high dome. 

The species can be found within evergreen forests, dry grasslands, and deciduous forests. The species is diurnal and forest during the morning and late afternoons.

During the hot afternoons, the species hide under shades. The species eat manzanita berries, fruits, lichens, grasses, and leaves. 

The species is classified as endangered because of the massive reduction in wild populations in the last 180 years which is equivalent to about three-generational lengths. 

3. Eastern Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise 

Eastern Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi) walking through grass and leaves in Galapagos, Ecuador
An Eastern Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi) walking through grass and leaves in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis donfaustoi
  • Length: 46 inches (117 cm)
  • Lifespan:  100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

C. donfaustoi is also known as Don Fausto’s giant tortoises. This turtle is endemic to Cero Fatal which can be found in Santa Cruz within 80 sq km. 

Males are barely larger than females. As with other Galapagos tortoises, C. donfaustoi has a high dome.

The species is diurnal and is most active during the day when it eats herbs, grasses, flowers, shrubs, and cacti. It is also known to have picked up eating passion fruits, blackberry, and guava which as nonnative plants to Santa Cruz.

The species is considered endangered since most of its wild population has disappeared. The population is believed to have fallen from around 13500 to just 550 specimens today. 

4. Española Giant Tortoise 

Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) named Diego at the San Diego Zoo taken by Anita Gould
An Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) named Diego at the San Diego Zoo taken by Anita Gould. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis hoodensis 
  • Length: 30 to 33.6 inches (77 to 85.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Although a giant tortoise, C. hoodensis is quite moderately sized for a Galapagos tortoise.

C. hoodensis are native turtles to Espanola island as you may have guessed from the common name. As with most Galapagos tortoises, males are generally larger than females.

C. hoodensisis diurnal and can be found in the dry shrublands, deciduous forests, and dry grasslands of its geographic range. During the hot afternoons, the tortoise generally seeks shade. The tortoise forages on cacti, grass, fruits, and flowers. 

C. hoodensis is considered an endangered species as it has lost about 99% of its wild population over the past three generations which is equal to about 180 years. Currently, there are about 860 individuals but this population was just about 14 in the 1960s.

5. Fernandina Giant Tortoise 

  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis phantasticus
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

There have been only two specimens of this tortoise recorded. There are efforts underway to find more individuals.

Hopefully, in the future, we will discover more specimens. Currently, there is a single living individual. The species is endemic to Fernandina Island. 

6. Pinzón Giant Tortoise 

Pinzón Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis duncanensis) on dark volcanic sand in Pinzon, Galápagos taken by Andy Kraemer
A Pinzón Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis duncanensis) on dark volcanic sand in Pinzon, Galápagos taken by Andy Kraemer. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis duncanensis
  • Length: 31.5 to 34 inches (80 to 86 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

C. duncanensis is found on Pinzón Island. The island is a small island of about 18 sq km.

C. duncanensis is found on about 12 sq km of that island. This island is also referred to as Duncan Island. 

The species is quite large and is a saddleback tortoise. It has a long neck and dark color. 

The species is most active during the morning and late afternoon when it forages. The plants it feeds on are cacti, fungi, shrubs, leaf litter, herbs, lichens, forbs, grass, moss, and epiphytes. 

During the afternoon, the tortoise cools off in mud or under shade. 

Because of the massive size of adults, they do not have natural predators, hatchlings may be eaten by hawks. 

There are less than 1000 living individuals and as such are classified as a threatened species. Threats included overexploitation by sailors up to the 20 century.

During the 20th century, they were collected in large numbers for museums. Up until 2012, the main threat to the species was the invasive black rats which preyed on the eggs of the species. 

7. Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria) on small pebbles and grass in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
A Red-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria) on small pebbles and grass in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis carbonaria / Geochelone carbonaria
  • Average Carapace Length: 11 to 14 inches (28 to 35.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

Chelonoidis carbonaria is a species endemic to South America.

Its geographic range stretches from the Andes. It can be found from eastern Columbia to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and to Bolívia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina.

The species can also be found in Panama and Trinidad in the Caribbean. 

These species can be found in forests, and savanna regions. This species is most common in humid habitats. 

The red-footed tortoise’s carapace is brown to black with each scute having a pale center. Around those pale centers are golden brown and the edges are dark.

The plastron on the other hand is dark yellow to cream. The species is called the red-footed tortoise because of the reddish-orange colorations on the limbs and tail.

Although the species has an average carapace length of 11 to 14 inches, they can reach a carapace length of  20 inches (51 cm).

The species is predominantly herbivorous and feeds on fruits during rainy seasons. During the dry season, it eats flowers. They are also known to occasionally ingest carrion, steams, and fungi.

They also eat a substantial amount of soil. 

Chelonoidis carbonaria is commonly kept as a pet turtle. They are easy to keep and are curious chelonians. 

8. San Cristóbal Giant Tortoise 

San Cristobal Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis chathamensis) bathing in water with a creep of tortoises behind it in Alapagos, Ecuador
A San Cristobal Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis chathamensis) bathing in water with a creep of tortoises behind it in Alapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis chathamensis
  • Length: 35.5 to 38.5 inches (90 to 98 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

C. chathamensis is a Galapagos tortoise species that occurs on San Cristóbal which lends its name to the tortoise. Similar to other Galapagos tortoises, C. chathamensis is saddleback shaped.

Males are generally a few inches larger than females. C. chathamensis can be found within the shrublands, deciduous forests, and grasslands of their geographic range.

During the late mornings and late afternoons, C. chathamensis forages for food. It feeds on grasses and shrubs and gets its water requirement from rain pools and its diet. 

The species have seen a massive decline in the population. Currently, there are considered to be about 700 specimens remaining in the wild. Threats to the species include black rats, pigs, dogs, and goats. 

9. Santiago Giant Tortoise 

Santiago Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis darwini) walking through mud and dry leaves in Galapagos, Ecuador
A Santiago Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis darwini) walking through mud and dry leaves in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis darwini
  • Length: 32 to 49.5 inches (82 to 126 cm)
  • Lifespan:  100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

C. darwini is a species facing extinction as there are very few individuals remaining. Luckily,  conservation efforts have seen an increase in the wild population in recent times.

However, in the last 180 years, about 95% of the population has disappeared. The current population is around 1700 species of this large land turtle species. 

Males of the species are considerably larger than females. The carapace of the species has a saddleback shape and is domed. 

C. darwini feeds on cacti, scrubs, and grasses depending on the time of the year. During the dry season when there is no water, they feed on cacti. C. darwini can also go long periods without drinking water. 

10. Sierra Negra Giant Tortoise 

Sierra Negra Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis guntheri) in wet grass in Galapagos, Ecuador
A Sierra Negra Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis guntheri) in wet grass in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis guntheri
  • Length: 47.5 inches (120.5 cm)
  • Lifespan:  100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

C. guntheri is another endangered tortoise that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, specifically the Isabela Island. The species can be found around the Sierra Negra Volcano which gives the tortoise its common name. 

The turtle is quite large with males being several inches larger than females.

Interestingly, the species have the flattest carapaces of any Galapagos tortoise when it has a flattened carapace also known as aplastadas. However, the carapace can also be domed

The species is classified as critically endangered since most of its wild population has disappeared, currently, there are about 400 to 7000 adult Sierra Negra tortoises around. This number used to be 71000 a few centuries ago. 

11. Alcedo Volcano Giant Tortoise 

Alcedo Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis vandenburghi) in dry shrub and bushes in Galapagos, Ecuador
An Alcedo Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis vandenburghi) in dry shrub and bushes in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis vandenburghi
  • Length: 35.5 to 51 inches (90 to 129 cm)
  • Lifespan:  100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

This species can be found around the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island. Their geographic range gives this turtle its common name. 

This tortoise is quite massive as is to be expected from Galapagos tortoises. Similar to the other tortoises endemic to Isabela Island, the species wasn’t overexploited by sailors.

However, assistive species introduced such as rats and goats have proven to be a massive threat to the wild population. In fact, within the last 180 years, the population has seen a fall of 83%.

C. vandenburghi feeds on fruits, fungi, shrubs, leaf litter, herbs, lichens, forbs, grass, moss, and epiphytes. 

The Alcedo Volcano is also a risk to the population and is believed to be the reason for the low genetic diversity among the species as it erupted about 100,000 years ago. 

12. Darwin Volcano Giant Tortoise 

Darwin Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis microphyes) in sticks taken by Minglex
A Darwin Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis microphyes) in sticks taken by Minglex. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis microphyes
  • Length: 34 to 53 inches (86 to 135 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

C. microphyes can be found around the slopes of the Darwin Volcano which lends its name to the species. This volcano is located on Isabela Island. Males are generally larger than females.

The species is most active in the late morning and late afternoons foraging on foods such as grasses, foliage, berries, and lichens during the wet season and cacti during the dry season. During the hot afternoons, the species hide under shades or rest in mud pools. 

Like other Galapagos tortoises, the wild population has been negatively affected by the introduction of invasive species such as dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and rats. 

13. Western Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise 

Western Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri) eating grass and noticing the camera in Galapagos, Ecuador
A Western Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri) eating grass and noticing the camera in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name:
  • Length: 45.3 to 38 inches (115 to 96.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

C. porteri is also known as Santa Cruz giant tortoise or the Indefatigable Island giant tortoise. The species is endemic to western Santa Cruz and is closely related to the eastern Santa Cruz tortoise which also inhabits Santa Cruz. 

The chelonian has a high dome and a carapace length of 96.5 for adult females and 115 cm for adult males.

The species is endemic to evergreen forests and deciduous forests within western Santa Cruz. 

Currently, there are about 3.400 specimens in extensive, which is a fall of about 90% over the last 180 years. There used to be 35,000 specimens before human impact.

14. Wolf Volcano Giant Tortoise 

Wolf Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis becki) on dry dirt in Galapagos, Ecuador
A Wolf Volcano Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis becki) on dry dirt in Galapagos, Ecuador. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis becki
  • Adult Male Size: 48.5 inches (123.5 cm)
  • Adult Female Size: 28 inches (71 cm)
  • Mass: 600 to 699 lb (272 to 317 kg)
  • Lifespan:  100+ years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

C. becki is found around the wolf volcano of Isabela Island. The tortoise is named after this volcano.

The geographic range of this species is limited. Just over 250 square km. females are generally much smaller than males are.

As with all other Galapagos tortoises, C. becki is huge. C. becki have a saddleback carapace which can be used to identify them.

C. becki is herbivorous and normally feeds on hard grasses and shrubs. The species is found in deciduous forests, montane forests, humid grasslands, dry shrublands, and dry grasslands within their geographic range. 

There are about 10,000 specimens left in the wild. The main threat to the species are the invasive species introduced to the island. 

15. Brazilian Giant Tortoise

Brazilian Giant Turtle (Chelonoidis denticulata) soaking in a small puddle in Espirito Santo, Brazil
A Brazilian Giant Turtle (Chelonoidis denticulata) soaking in a small puddle in Espirito Santo, Brazil. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chelonoidis denticulata
  • Length: 32 inches (82 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Chelonoidis denticulata is endemic to South America and can be found in the Amazon basin as well as eastern Colombia and Ecuador.

It can also be found in the Caribbeans, specifically Trinidad, and from Guianas to brazil. It is also endemic to Bolivia and Peru. 

Chelonoidis denticulata is known to feed on fungi such as gilled and woody mushrooms, grasses, flowers, leaves, bark, roots, and vines. It also ingests soil and pebbles. During the rainy season, the species feed mostly on fruits. 

The carapace of Chelonoidis denticulata is elongated with shallow cervical indentation. This carapace is brown with yellow colorations. The well-developed plastron is brown with dark markings on the mid seams and the transverse seams. 

Genus Homopus 

16. Greater Padloper

Greater Padloper (Homopus femoralis) on a dirt hill in Western Cape, South Africa
A Greater Padloper (Homopus femoralis) on a dirt hill in Western Cape, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Homopus femoralis
  • Other Names: Karoo Tortoise
  • Length: 6.7 inches (17 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Homopus femoralis is a tiny tortoise with a flattened carapace that is brown.

The plastron on the other hand is yellowish to olive. The upper jaw of the species is weakly hooked and it has a non-protruding snout. 

The greater padloper can be found in South Africa specifically in the southwest of the North-West Province, southwest Free State, Eastern Cape, and western Western Cape. 

The greater padloper nests in the summer. 

The greater padloper inhabits plateau grasslands and rocky ridges in the mountains where it feeds on small herbs and grasses. 

17. Parrot-beaked Tortoise 

Parrot-beaked Tortoise (Homopus areolatus) on a pebbly surface at Uitenhage Farms, Gqeberha, South Africa
A Parrot-beaked Tortoise (Homopus areolatus) on a pebbly surface at Uitenhage Farms, Gqeberha, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Homopus areolatus
  • Length: 12 inches (30 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

This species is also known as the common padloper. As you can imagine, the common padloper is closely related to the greater padloper. 

Homopus areolatus is quite a small tortoise although females are quite sizeable and are larger than males. The carapace is dorsally flat with indentations on the cervical scutes. The carapace is reddish with a yellowish border around each scute. 

The plastron of the species is yellow with dark pigmentation in the center. The upper jaw of the species is strongly hooked.

This gives it its common name parrot beaked. This is unlike the greater padloper. 

The species is endemic to Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Northern Cape in South Africa. 

Genus Psammobates  

18. Geometric Tortoise 

Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus) on dry dirt and rocks in Western Cape, South Africa
A Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus) on dry dirt and rocks in Western Cape, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Psammobates geometricus
  • Length: 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

This is a tiny tortoise with radiated patterns on each scute of the carapace. The carapace of the species is elliptical and domed, with steep sides.

This carapace is dark with yellow lines radiating from the center of each scute. The scutes also have growth rings. 

Psammobates geometricus is endemic to South Africa, particularly in the southwestern region of the Western Cape Province. While they used to be more plentiful, they are now critically endangered.

Threats include habitat degradation caused by agriculture, wildfires, and the spread of invasive nonnative plants. Currently, the species is protected in reserves. 

Psammobates geometricus feeds on shrubs, herbs, sedges, reeds, and grasses. 

19. Tent Tortoise 

Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius) on dry, sandy land at Karoo Hoogland Municipality, South Africa
A Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius) on dry, sandy land at Karoo Hoogland Municipality, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Psammobates tentorius
  • Length: 5.7 inches (14.5 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Near Threatened 

Thus turtle s also known as the African tent tortoise. The shell of this tortoise is domed with steep sides. The species is called tent tortoise as the scutes form tentlike shapes.

The plastron of this chelonian is well-developed and large. This plastron is yellowish or orange with or without dark patterns depending on the individual. 

The carapace is dark with yellow radiating lines on each scute. This however changes from one subspecies to another.

Psammobates tentorius tentorius, commonly known as Southern (“Karoo”) tent tortoise can be found in the southern Karoo region of southern Africa as its common name suggests. This subspecies has yellow radiating lines on dark scutes. 

Psammobates tentorius trimeni, commonly known as Western (“Namaqualand”) tent tortoise, can be found in Namaqualand. This subspecies has prominent tents

Psammobates tentorius verroxii, commonly known as Northern (“Bushmanland”) tent tortoise, can be found in Northern Cape Province in South Africa and northwestern Great Namaqualand. This subspecies has the flattest carapace. 

Genus Indotestudo 

20. Elongated Tortoise 

Elongated Tortoise (Chelonoidis microphyes) walking on concrete by greenery in Chumphon, Thailand
A Elongated Tortoise (Chelonoidis microphyes) walking on concrete by greenery in Chumphon, Thailand. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Indotestudo elongata
  • Length: 12 inches (30 cm)
  • Mass: 7 lb (3.5 kg)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

The elongated tortoise is a critically endangered species that is native to the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. 

This turtle can be found in southern China, Myanmar, western Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. 

The carapace of this species is flattened with posterior and anterior margins which are serrated. The shell is twice as long as it is as deep.

This gives the tortoise its common name. The carapace is brown and so is the plastron. 

The species is medium in size compared to other members of its family with males having larger longer tails and a more concave plastron. 

The species is normally collected for human consumption. That and habitat degradation has led to the decline in the wild populations. 

21. Forsten’s Tortoise 

Forsten's Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) baby taken by owner Riou108
A Forsten’s Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) baby taken by owner Riou108. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Indotestudo forstenii
  • Length: 12 inches (30 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Similar to the elongated tortoise, this species also has an elongated carapace that is flat. The shell is almost twice as long as it is deep.

The carapace is gray or brown with dark blotches on the scutes. The plastron is also brown to yellow with dark blotches on the scutes. 

The species is endemic to Sulawesi, an island of Indonesia as well as nearby islands.

The species can be found in Buol, Mount Boliahutu (also called Mount Bolihutuo), the western border of Lore Lindu National Park, Bora Village near Gimpu, Palu Valley, Kulawi Valley, Morowali Reserve, and Santigi. All of these places are in Sulawesi. 

Indotestudo forstenii is named after Eltio Alegondas Forsten., a Dutch botanist. 

22. Travancore Tortoise 

Travancore Tortoise (Indotestudo travancorica) walking through dirt and greenery in Tamil Nadu, India
A Travancore Tortoise (Indotestudo travancorica) walking through dirt and greenery in Tamil Nadu, India. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Indotestudo travancorica 
  • Length: 13 inches (33 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • National Conservation Status: Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act

This is a large forest tortoise endemic to India. The species can be found in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.

You can identify the tortoise by looking behind the head. The scute right behind the end is missing.

Also, the second scute of the vertebral column is the highest part of the carapace. 

Indotestudo travancorica is similar in appearance to the other Indotestudo chelonians. Indotestudo travancorica can be found in hill forests and feed on fruits, fungi, animal carcasses, insects, and mollusks.

However, its primary diet is herbs and grasses. 

Genus Gopherus 

23. Berlandier’s Tortoise 

Berlander's Tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri) walking on dry rocky ground in Nuevo Leon, Mexico
A Berlander’s Tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri) walking on dry rocky ground in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus berlandieri
  • Length: 9.4 inches (24 cm)
  • Lifespan: 40 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
  • State/Provincial Statuses: S2 (Texas)

Gopherus berlandieri is also known as the Texas tortoise as it is endemic to Texas.

The species can be found in southern Texas. In Mexico, the species can be found in San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila. 

There are several threats that the wild population faces. The major threats are road mortality, habitat degradation due to agriculture, and the introduction of buffelgrass for grazing. 

Gopherus berlandieri inhabits open scrub woods and other areas with well-drained sandy soils. During cold winters the species is inactive.

During summer, the species is active in the morning and late afternoon. However, in spring and fall, the species is active during the afternoon.

Gopherus berlandieri is primarily herbivorous and feeds on forbs, grasses, and cacti. It is also known to eat insects, snails, and feces. 

The species is known to nest in spring and summer. 

24. Bolson Tortoise 

Bolson Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) walking through dry shrub in Durango, Mexico
A Bolson Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) walking through dry shrub in Durango, Mexico. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus flavomarginatus
  • Length: 16 inches (40 cm)
  • Mass: 77 to 220 lb (35 to 100 kg)
  • Lifespan: 40 to 70 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

G. flavomarginatus is a large tortoise endemic to Mexico. It is the largest tortoise in North America.

As such, it is also referred to as the Mexican gopher tortoise. G. flavomarginatus is endemic to Durango, Coahulia, and chihuahua. All states in Mexico.

In Durango, G. flavomarginatus is located in the northeast. In Chihuahua, G. flavomarginatus is located in the southeast. In Coahuila, G. flavomarginatus is located in the northwest. 

The coloration of this species ranges from yellow to dirty cream. The plastron is yellow while the carapace is brown to straw yellow. 

The species can be found on low-grade slopes with a mix of desert bunch grasses and sclerophyll shrubs. 

25. Gopher Tortoise 

on rocky gravel near St Sebasian River State Park, Florida, USA
A Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) on rocky gravel near St Sebasian River State Park, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus polyphemus
  • Length: 9 to 15 inches (23 to 39 cm)
  • Mass: 194 oz (5.5 kg)
  • Lifespan:  86 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • State/Provincial Statuses: S1 (South Carolina, Louisiana), S2 (Mississippi), S3 (Georgia, Florida, Alabama)

This gopher tortoise is simply called gopher tortoise. It is also referred to as the Florida gopher tortoise as it is endemic to Florida. 

Gopherus polyphemus is endemic to the southeastern United States and has seen a decline of 80% in its wild population over the last 100 years. As such, the species is considered Threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Major threats to the species include habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation due to agricultural and urban development, and habitat loss. Other threats include predation by raccoons and humans and exposure to Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD).

The species is found in dry scrub forests, dunes, and grasslands.

26. Mojave Desert Tortoise 

Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) in red dirt near Pioneer Park, Utah, USA
A Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) in red dirt near Pioneer Park, Utah, USA. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus agassizii
  • Length: 6 to 14 inches (15 to 36 cm)
  • Mass: 24 to 51 oz (11 to 23 kg)
  • Lifespan:  50 to 80 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
  • National & State/Provincial Statuses: N3 (National), S2 (Utah, Arizona), S2S3 (Nevada, California)

This species is also called the Californian desert tortoise as it is endemic to California. It is also simply called the desert tortoise.

Gopherus agassizii is endemic to California, Nevada, Utah, Sinaloa, and Sonora. Sinaloa and Sonora are both states in Mexico while the other locations are states in the United States. 

Species are located in deserts, mountains, and scrub forests. While there are no subspecies there are variations depending on the geographic locations of the species.

Gopherus agassizii is scaly and has thick skin. The nails are very long and ideal for digging in the desert.

The carapace is brownish to yellowish. Males are substantially bigger than females. Males also engage in combat.  

27. Sinaloan Thornscrub Tortoise 

Sinaloan Thornscrub Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) in leafy mud in Sonora, Mexico
A Sinaloan Thornscrub Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) in leafy mud in Sonora, Mexico. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus evgoodei
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Gopherus evgoodei is a recently described species. It was described in 2016.

The species is also known as Sinaloan desert tortoise, Goode’s thornscrub tortoise, and Goode’s desert tortoise. The species is endemic to the Sinaloan desert which gives the species its common name. 

Gopherus evgoodei can be found in desertscrub habitats and deciduous forests. 

Unlike other gopher tortoises, Gopherus evgoodei has a flatter carapace and rounded footpads.

The shell and skin are orange in coloration. Males of the species have more concave plastrons. 

The species is named after the founder of the turtle conservancy, Eric V. Goode.

Genus Testudo 

28. Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise 

Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca) walking through grass in Souss - Massa - Draa, Morocco
A Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca) walking through grass in Souss – Massa – Draa, Morocco. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Testudo graeca
  • Length: 7 to 8 inches (18 to 21 cm)
  • Lifespan:  120 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

This is one of the more common tortoises kept as a pet. The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise is also known as the Greek tortoise or the common tortoise as it is common.

The species can be found in the Mediterranean region. It can be found in North Africa, southwest Asia, and southern Europe. 

There are at least 20 subspecies of the Testudo graeca in existence. The description of the subspecies is complicated because of the wide geographic range of the species and the many variations due to its wide range.

A few of the subspecies include T. g. armeniaca commonly known as Armenian tortoise (Armenia), T. g. buxtoni (endemic to the Caspian Sea), T. g. cyrenaica (endemic to Libya), T. g. floweri (endemic to Jordan),  T. g. graeca (endemic to North Africa and South Spain),  T. g. ibera (endemic to Turkey), T. g. marokkensis (endemic to North Morocco), T. g. nabeulensis commonly known as Tunisian tortoise (endemic to Tunisia), T. g. soussensis (endemic to South Morocco), T. g. terrestris (endemic to Israel and Lebanon), T. g. whitei (endemic to Algeria), and T. g. zarudnyi (endemic to Iran and Azerbaijan). 

The tortoise is of moderate size. T. g. ibera (7 to 8 inches) can be about twice as large as the nominate subspecies – T. g. graeca (5 to 6 inches).

29. Hermann’s Tortoise 

Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) in grass, leaves, and sand in Islas Baleares, Spain
A Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) in grass, leaves, and sand in Islas Baleares, Spain. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Testudo hermanni
  • Length: 5 to 9 inches (12 to 23 cm)
  • Mass: 4.4 to 5.5 lb (2 to 2.5 kg)
  • Lifespan:  120 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Near Threatened

Testudo hermanni is a Mediterranean tortoise that can be found in western Europe. These include Greece and Romania to southern Spain.

However, most of the tortoise population is in peninsular Italy. 

Testudo hermanni inhabits coastal and inland forest habitats. Interestingly enough, because of habitat degradation, the population is now also found in dry grasslands. 

The species is a moderately sized tortoise. The western subspecies (T. h. hermanni) is very colorful while the eastern subspecies (T. h. boettgeri) is dully colored.

The species is known to be primarily herbivorous, although they are known to eat slugs, snails, and insects when vegetation is rare. The vegetation they eat includes flowers, leaves, and grasses.

30. Kleinmann’s Tortoise

Kleinmann's Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) in dry sand and grass in Al Marqab, Libya
A Kleinmann’s Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) in dry sand and grass in Al Marqab, Libya. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Testudo kleinmanni
  • Length: 5.7 inches (14.4 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Testudo kleinmanni was once considered a subspecies of Testudo graeca. This turtle is smaller than the Testudo graeca.

Testudo kleinmanni is endemic to Israel, Libya, and Egypt. Because the species is endemic to Egypt, it is called the Egyptian tortoise.

The species is also called the Negev tortoise, and the Leith’s tortoise. 

While the species used to be widespread, it is now almost extinct in the wild. The species inhabits rocky and sandy habitats. The species is also found in shrub forests. 

The main threats to the species include agricultural developments as well as industrial developments. Testudo kleinmanni is also affected by the illegal pet trade. 

31. Marginated  Tortoise 

A Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata) climbing rocks and grass in Thessaly and Central Greece, Greece. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Testudo marginata
  • Length: 30 to 38 inches (12 to 15 cm)
  • Mass: 11 oz (5 kg)
  • Lifespan:  100 to 140 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

This is another chelonian that is commonly kept as pets.

The species is quite large and are considered the largest tortoises endemic to Europe. These tortoises are endemic to the Mediterranean, especially the Balkans, Italy, and Greece. 

The carapace is oblong and black in coloration with yellow markings. The plastron is lightly colored with triangle marks with points that face the marginated tortoise’s rear. 

While territorial in the wild, they are calm in captivity. However, they should be fed a proper diet. If not, they get aggressive. 

There are two subspecies and these are the T. m. marginata (Greek marginated tortoise) and the T. m. sarda (Sardinian marginated tortoise). T. m. sarda can be found in Sardinia (an island off the coast of peninsular Italy). 

32. Russian Tortoise 

Russian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) on wet sand in Almaty, Kazakhstan
A Russian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) on wet sand in Almaty, Kazakhstan. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Testudo horsfieldii / Agrionemys horsfieldii 
  • Length: 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm)
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Also known as Horsfield’s tortoise, the Russian tortoise is one of the smaller tortoises there is. Because of their small stature and ease of care, they are normally kept as pets. 

With these turtles, females are usually a bit larger than males.

However, males have longer tails and longer claws. The carapace of the species is yellowish-brown to light brown with dark blotches on the scutes. 

The plastron is dark with yellow seams. The plastron also lacks the moveable hinges seen in other species of the genus Testudo. 

There are three to five accepted subspecies. The number changes from one source to another.

The three widely accepted are Testudo horsfieldii horsfieldii (Central Asian tortoise) which is endemic to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; T. h. kazakhstanica (Kazachstan tortoise) which is endemic to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan; and T. h. rustamovi (Kopet-Dag tortoise) which is endemic to Kopet-Dag in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. 

Genus Kinixys 

33. Forest Hinge-back Tortoise 

Forest Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys erosa) walking through a mountain of sand in Wonga Wongue National Park in Gabon
A Forest Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys erosa) walking through a mountain of sand in Wonga Wongue National Park in Gabon. – Source
  • Scientific Name: bKinixys erosa
  • IUCN Red List Status: Data Deficient

This species is endemic to Subsaharan Africa and can be found in tropical rainforests.

The species can be found across West Africa and Central Africa. The species remained buried under logs and roots for most of the time. 

Kinixys erosa is an excellent swimmer and diver. This is rare for tortoises as it is their freshwater and marine turtle cousins who are known for swimming.

However, Kinixys erosa can dive and swim when foraging for food. The species is omnivorous and feeds on fruits, weeds, grass, carrion, and invertebrates. 

34. Home’s Hinge-back Tortoise 

Home's Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys homeana) on the forest floor in Western, Ghana
A Home’s Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys homeana) on the forest floor in Western, Ghana. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Kinixys homeana
  • Length: 8.8 inches (22.3 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

This is a rare tortoise that can be found in West Africa. The species is endemic to Ghana, Benin, Togo, Côte D’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic Of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Liberia.

The species can be found in tropical lowland forests, swamps, and plantations. 

The species usually stay hidden when the sun is high up and only forages when it is dusk or dawn. 

35. KwaZulu-Natal Hinged-back Tortoise 

KwaZulu-Natal Hinge-backed Tortoise (Kinixys natalensis) walking through dry dirt in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
A KwaZulu-Natal Hinge-backed Tortoise (Kinixys natalensis) walking through dry dirt in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Kinixys natalensis
  • Length: 6.1 inches (15.5 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

As you may have successfully guessed, this species is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The species also inhabit the Northern Province and Lebombo Range. 

This tortoise can be found in bushveld habitats and dry rocky thornveld habitats at elevations of 300 to 100 m. 

The species is slightly domed although the sides are flat and almost vertical. The scutes of the carapace are alternating brown and black. 

Males of the species have thicker longer tails with concave plastrons. However, the females are larger than the males. 

36. Lobatse Hinged Tortoise 

Lobatse Hingeback Tortoise (Kinixys lobatsiana) walking through grass in Pretoria, South Africa
A Lobatse Hingeback Tortoise (Kinixys lobatsiana) walking through grass in Pretoria, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Kinixys lobatsiana
  • Length: 6.6 inches (16.7 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

This species of tortoises have a flat carapace and a narrow long shell. The species itself is quite small in size. The carapace is yellowish to brown in coloration. 

Kinixys lobatsiana may be called the hinged tortoise but the plastron isn’t hinged. This plastron is yellow with dark lines that radiate.

The head is small and brownish. So are the limbs. 

Kinixys lobatsiana is endemic to southeastern Botswana and northern South Africa. The specimens endemic to South Africa have more distinct patterns than those endemic to Botswana.

Kinixys lobatsiana are omnivorous and feed on snails, beetles, millipedes, plants, and mushrooms.

Genus Pyxis 

37. Flat-tailed Tortoise 

Flat-tailed Tortoise (Pyxis planicauda) wakling on the forest floor in Menabe, Madagascar
A Flat-tailed Tortoise (Pyxis planicauda) wakling on the forest floor in Menabe, Madagascar. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Pyxis planicauda
  • Length: 5.4 inches (13.7 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

This turtle is also known as the flat-shelled spider tortoise.

It is endemic to southwestern Madagascar between the Tsiribihina river and the Monrondava river. The species can be found in semi-arid regions and deciduous forests. 

Pyxis planicauda feeds mostly on leaves, shoots, and fruits. The turtle aestivates during the dry season and is only active after rains. 

P. planicauda has a relatively flat carapace with scutes that are yellow or ground in coloration with wide dark borders. Older individuals have a yellow border around the dark border. 

The plastron is hingeless and yellow with dark patterns. 

38. Spider Tortoise 

Spider Tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides) walking through sand in Toliary, Madagascar
A Spider Tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides) walking through sand in Toliary, Madagascar. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Pyxis arachnoides
  • Length: 6 inches (15 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

The spider tortoise is so-called because of the pattern on its carapace which resembles a spider web. The carapace is brown with yellowish patterns. 

The species can be found in southwestern Madagascar. It can be found from Fort Dauphin to Cape Sainte-Marie.

There are three different subspecies and these are the Pyxis arachnoides arachnoides, the common spider tortoise, which can be found Onilahy River. P. a. oblonga is called the southern spider toise and can be found from Lake Anony to La Linta.

The third subspecies, P. a. brygooi, is called the northern spider tortoise and is found in the northern part of the geographical range. The species is found in dry woodlands and deciduous forests. 

Genus Geochelone 

39. Burmese Star Tortoise 

Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) sitting in its food bowl taken by NasserHalaweh
A Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) sitting in its food bowl taken by NasserHalaweh. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Geochelone platynota
  • Length: 10.2 inches (26 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Geochelone platynota is called the star tortoise because of the star patterns on the scutes of the carapace. Each carapace is black to dark brown with a star pattern. 

The species is similar to the Indian star tortoise and can be distinguished using their geographic ranges. The plastron can be used to distinguish the two.

G. platynota can be found in central Myanmar which used to be called Burma. Its geographic range gives it its common name. G. platynota can be found in forests. 

The species is known to nest in February. 

40. Aldabra Giant Tortoise 

Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) resting on the sand under a palm tree in La Digue and Inner Islands, Seychelles
An Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) resting on the sand under a palm tree in La Digue and Inner Islands, Seychelles. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Geochelone gigantea / Dipsochelys dussumieri
  • Length: 35 to 55 inches (90 to 140 cm) 
  • Mass: 352.5 to 550.5 (160 to 250 kg)
  • Lifespan:  176 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Geochelone gigantea can be found in the Aldabra Atoll which gives the tortoise its name. The Aldabra atoll is in Seychelles.

The species have also been introduced to other islands in Seychelles such as Reunion. The species has also been introduced to Mauritius. 

This turtle can be found in coastal regions and beaches, mangrove swamps, and scrub forests. 

Geochelone gigantea is huge and is considered the largest extant tortoise by many sources. They can reach weights of 550 lb or 250 kg.

As you can see they are huge. They are high domed and have long necks. 

The species is considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

41. Indian Star Tortoise 

Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) walking through fresh grass in Matale, Sri Lanka
An Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) walking through fresh grass in Matale, Sri Lanka. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Geochelone elegans
  • Length: 6 to 15 inches (15 to 38 cm)
  • Mass: 2 to 14.5 lb (1 to 6.5  kg)
  • Lifespan:  25 to 80 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Geochelone elegans is also known as just the star tortoise, this species is known as such because of the star patterns on the carapace. This attractive pattern coupled with their ease of care makes them quite a popular pet. 

G. elegans can be found in eastern India, southeastern parking, Sri Lanka, and southeastern India. 

The carapace of this turtle is dark with bright yellow lines that radiate from the center of the scutes. The limbs and head of the tortoise are also dark with yellow spots. The plastron is yellow with dark lines that radiate from the center of the scutes. 

While there are no subspecies for this tortoise, the specimens from the north of the range tend to be bigger than those from the south of the range. Also, specimens from southern India are more brightly colored than specimens from western India and eastern Pakistan. 

G. elegans can be found in dry savannas and deciduous forests. G. elegans enjoys long soaks in pools of water. 

Genus Manouria 

42. Burmese Mountain Tortoise 

Burmese Mountain Tortoise (Manouria emys) in grass and sand in Sumatera Barat, Indonesia
A Burmese Mountain Tortoise (Manouria emys) in grass and sand in Sumatera Barat, Indonesia. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Manouria emys
  • Length: 19.5 to 23.5 inches (50 to 60 cm)
  • Mass: 44 to 81.50 lb (20 to 37 kg)
  • Lifespan:  20 to 150 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

M. emys is an endangered species that is endemic to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and the rest of southeast Asia. And although this turtle is endangered, it has been successfully bred in captivity and has been kept as a pet. 

M. emys is the largest tortoise in mainland Asia. 

The species is endemic from Myanmar to Borneo and Sumatra and northeastern India. The range includes Malaysia and Thailand.

There are two subspecies of this turtle and these are M. e. phayrei (the Burmese black tortoise) and M. e. emys (the brown tortoise). M. e. phayrei is endemic to Assam in India, Myanmar, and northern Thailand to central Thailand.

This subspecies is black in coloration, domed, and reaches a length of 23.5 inches. This subspecies is more elongated than the nominated subspecies. M. e. emys, on the other hand, is brown in coloration. 

M. emys can be found in monsoon forests. It prefers evergreen habitats with high humidity. Most of the time, the species is hidden under leaf litter or wet soil.

M. emys is a critically endangered tortoise with a dwindling wild population.

This species is protected under wildlife laws in India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar. It is also protected in several sanctuaries and national parks. The species is also included in CITES Appendix II. 

43. Impressed Tortoise 

Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) on concrete in Pahang, Malaysia
An Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) on concrete in Pahang, Malaysia. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Manouria impressa
  • Length: 13 inches (31 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

Manouria impressa is called the impressed tortoise because the scutes of the carapace appear to be indented or in a different word – impressed. This turtle can be found in China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia. 

The carapace of M. impressa is brownish-yellow (golden brown) with indented scutes. The front scutes are elongated and the rear scutes are serrated. The skin is also golden brown

The species can be found in bamboo thickets and evergreen woodlands on mountains and hills. The tortoise seems to get its water needs from vegetation and heavy dew and not from water bodies. Most of the time, M. impressa hides under leaf litter or wet soil.

Although there isn’t much known about M. impressa, its diet consists mostly of mushrooms, although it does eat bamboo shoots occasionally. 

Caring for an impressed tortoise is difficult as little is known about it. 

Genus Astrochelys 

44. Ploughshare Tortoise 

Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) eating kale at the Knoxville Zoo, Knox county, Tennessee taken by Brian Henderson
A Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) eating kale at the Knoxville Zoo, Knox county, Tennessee taken by Brian Henderson
  • Scientific Name: Astrochelys yniphora
  • Length: 17.5 inches (44.6 cm)
  • Mass: 19 to 23 lb (9 to 10 kg)
  • Lifespan:  50 to 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Astrochelys yniphora is a rare chelonian that can be found in the Baly Bay area of northwestern Madagascar in about a 25 to 92 square km range. There are very few individuals, about 600, left in existence. 

A. yniphora as with other tortoises is a terrestrial turtle that can be found in bamboo scrub savannahs. A. yniphora has an elevated carapace.

The carapace of the species is yellowish-brown with scutes that have growth annuli. The plastron is also uniformly yellow although some individuals have brown markings on their plastron. 

Males have more concave plastrons than females. They also have thicker and longer tails. 

A. yniphora is herbivorous and is known to feed on Bauhinia pervillei (a leguminous shrub), Heteropogon contortus (tussock grass), and other grasses and sedges. They are also known to feed on the feces of bushpigs and lemurs.

In captivity, they have been known to feed on fruits, grasses, and wild plant species. They are offered fruits such as papayas, bananas, cactus, tomatoes, mangoes, and pumpkins.

They are also offered leafy greens and vegetables such as carrots, kale, romance lettuce, and butter lettuce. Interestingly, in the breeding programs in Madagascar, the tortoises are also offered eggs in addition to the plants they are fed. 

With the limited number of individuals left in the world, this is a regulated species. They are protected under Madagascan laws as well as listed in Appendix I of CITES. 

45. Radiated Tortoise 

Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) walking on dry land with some green in La Digue and Inner Islands, Seychelles
A Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) walking on dry land with some green in La Digue and Inner Islands, Seychelles. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Astrochelys radiata
  • Length: 17.5 inches (44.6 cm)
  • Mass: 19 to 23 lb (9 to 10 kg)
  • Lifespan:  50 to 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

This critically endangered tortoise can be found in Madagascar specifically the southwestern part of the island and Reunion where it was introduced by humans. 

This species can be found in woodlands, thorn forests, and arid brush habitats. 

The species is referred to as the radiated tortoise because of the radiated patterns on the scutes of the carapace. These scutes are dark in color with yellow lines that radiate from the center.

The pattern is detailed and sometimes joins together with neighboring scutes to form an interesting pattern. The species is herbivorous and feeds on succulents, grasses, cacti, and fruits. 

Genus Chersina 

46. Angulate Tortoise 

Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata) in dry shrub and rocks in Eastern Cape, South Africa
An Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata) in dry shrub and rocks in Eastern Cape, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chersina angulata
  • Length: 12 inches (30 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Chersina angulata is also known as the South African bowsprit tortoise.

C. angulata is endemic to South Africa, in particular the Cape Provinces. C. angulata may also be endemic to Namibia although this is not confirmed. 

While there are no subspecies, there are regional variations. The species on the west coast are reddish in coloration. Their plastron is also red.

The ones found around the Karoo region are dark in coloration with some specimens even being uniformly black. The specimens in Eastern Cape are light in coloration and are also smaller.

C. angulata are found in karooid scrubland, mesic thicket, and coastal fynbos. 

Genus Malacochersus 

47. Pancake Tortoise 

Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) sitting on a rock in Samburu, Kenya
A Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) sitting on a rock in Samburu, Kenya. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Malacochersus tornieri
  • Length: 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18cm)
  • Lifespan:  35 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

The pancake tortoise is so-called because it is flattened like a pancake. This tortoise is just an inch tall.

Malacochersus tornieri is normally kept as a pet because of its ease of care and small stature. Because of the flat nature of the shell, the species is lightweight and quick.

The turtle has no keels and no hinges. It is also unable to tuck its head into its shell.

The turtle is endemic to Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

The species is critically endangered because its appearance makes it a sought-after pet. This has led to overcollection. 

Genus Stigmochelys 

48. Leopard Tortoise 

Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) drinking from a muddy puddle in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana
A Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) drinking from a muddy puddle in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Stigmochelys pardalis / Psammobates pardalis
  • Length: 12 to 27.5 inches (30 to 70 cm)
  • Mass: 40 lb (18 kg)
  • Lifespan:  50 to 100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Stigmochelys pardalis is called the leopard tortoise because the patterns on the carapace resemble the patterns of a leopard. The species is endemic to eastern to southern Africa. 

Stigmochelys pardalis can be found inhabiting mesic and xeric habitats which include dry arid plains and grasslands. The species do not tolerate cold or humid conditions well. 

Stigmochelys pardalis is one of the largest tortoises in the world and among the largest in Africa. 

Genus Chersobius 

49. Karoo Padloper 

Karoo Padloper (Chersobius boulengeri) walking through dry land and grass in Western Cape, South Africa
A Karoo Padloper (Chersobius boulengeri) walking through dry land and grass in Western Cape, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chersobius boulengeri
  • Length: 3.9 inches (10 cm)
  • Mass: 3.5 to 5.3 oz ( 100 to 150 g)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

Karoo padloper is endemic to the Nama Karoo Region in South Africa.

This region also lends its name to the species. The species is also known as the Karoo dwarf tortoise, Boulenger’s padloper, Donner-weer tortoise, and the Boulenger’s cape tortoise.

Karoo padloper is a small tortoise with a depressed carapace that is uniformly brown. The color may be reddish, orange-brown, or even olive.

The species is similar in appearance to the other padlopers including the Nama padloper and the speckled padloper. All three tortoises are endemic to southern Africa. 

50. Nama Padloper 

Nama Padloper (Chersobius solus) walking on a large rock taken by The Naturalist Collection on Facebook
A Nama Padloper (Chersobius solus) walking on a large rock taken by The Naturalist Collection on Facebook. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chersobius solus
  • Length: 2.4 to 3.9 inches (6 to 10 cm)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

This padloper is similar to the Karoo padloper and both are endemic to a similar geographic range. The species has several names including Berger’s cape tortoise and Nama dwarf tortoise.

The species only feed on plants from the Cape and Karoo regions.

The Nama padloper is endemic to Namibia in particular in the extreme desert. As such the Nama padloper has no major threats. 

Some threats to the species include overcollection for the pet trade, road mortality, and habitat degradation. 

Keeping the Nama padloper as a pet is illegal unless registered in a noncommercial studbook both in Namibia and South Africa. Commercial trade of the Nama padloper is also considered illegal. 

51. Speckled Padloper 

Speckled Padloper (Chersobius signatus) on pebbly sand in Namakwa, South Africa
A Speckled Padloper (Chersobius signatus) on pebbly sand in Namakwa, South Africa. – Source
  • Scientific Name: Chersobius signatus / Homopus signatus
  • Length: 2.4 to 3.9 inches (6 to 10 cm)
  • Mass: 3.4 to 5.8 oz ( 95 to 165 grams)
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

The speckled padloper is also known as the speckled dwarf tortoise and the speckled cape tortoise.

This species is one of the smallest tortoises and turtles in the world, with males reaching a carapace length of just 2 to 3 inches. Females are larger and can reach a length of about 4 inches. 

The speckled padloper’s carapace is flattened with a serrated edge. This carapace is golden brown with many black spots.

The males have a more concave plastron than the females. For both sexes, the plastron is yellowish to cream with radiating lines and brown markings. 

Speckled padloper has a small geographic range within Little Namaqualand which is an arid region within South Africa. The species can be found foraging among the rock outcrops of this arid region. They feed mostly on succulent plants and Wiborgia (a shrub). 

The main threats to the speckled padloper include collection for the pet trade, habitat degradation, predation by pigs and dogs, and road mortality. The trade of the species is considered illegal and all captive individuals have to be registered in studbooks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the lifespan of the family Testudinidae?

Tortoises are long-lived animals that commonly live for 50 to 150 years. This is essential to remember if you ever decide to keep a turtle as a pet. Greek tortoises generally live for 50 to 90 years. Egyptian tortoises generally live for 50 to 100 years. Burmese star tortoises live for 60 to 100 years while the Indian tortoise lives for 50 to 100 years. 

What’s the size of Testudinidae?

The largest tortoises are the Galapagos tortoises which can grow to over 660 lb or 300kg. While the smallest tortoise is the  Speckled Cape tortoise or Speckled padloper.

This chelonian grows to just 2.4 to 3 inches and weighs just 3 to 6 oz. Most turtles kept as pets are however generally small in size such as the Egyptian tortoise and the greek tortoise.

Both chelonians grow to be 4 to 8 inches in carapace length. The sulcata tortoise which is commonly kept as a pet can grow to a massive size of 33 inches in carapace length and a weight of 80 to 100 lb.

Is it legal to keep a tortoise as a pet?

Not all tortoises can be legally kept as pets but several species can be kept as pets. However, the illegality depends on your locality.

Be sure to check your state laws before acquiring a pet tortoise. However, tortoises commonly kept as pets include the sulcata tortoise, the greek tortoise, and the Indian star tortoise. 

What other families is Testudinidae closely related to?

Testudinidae is most closely related to Emydidae and Geoemydidae. These families are part of the superfamily Testudinoidea.

Features shared by these families include the biconvex shape of the eighth cervical vertebra. The shape and muscle attachment of the ilium, and the lack of inframarginal scutes.  

Conclusion

Members of Testudinidae are land-dwelling reptiles commonly known as tortoises.

This family is one of the largest and most varied in the order Testudines (which include all turtle families and species). All tortoises are terrestrial unlike other families of the order Testudines which are all at least partially an aquatic turtle.

Tortoises can be found in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Testudinidae is, however, not present in Australasia which includes Australia and its surrounding islands. 

Tortoises are long-lived and generally live between 80 to 150 years. They are also very slow with a walking speed of  0.1 to 0.3 miles (or 0.2 to 0.5 km) per hour. 

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