Testudo graeca

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<Rare and Endangered Animals of Armenia

The Greek Tortoise

File:200px-Tortoise.jpg File:250px-Graeca 005.jpg File:230px-Graeca 045.jpg File:230px-Tun0001.jpg File:230px-Tun0004.jpg The Greek Tortoise or Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca) is one of four European members of the Testudinidae family of tortoises. The other members of the family are Herman's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), the Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata) and Horsfield's Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii).

The division of Greek Tortoises into subspecies is difficult and confusing. Given the huge range over three continents, the various terrains, climates, and biotopes have produced a huge number of varieties, with new subspecies constantly being discovered. There are currently at least twenty published subspecies.

Testudo graeca,4 years Testudo graeca ibera,plastron Testdudo hermanni,Herman's tortoise,there are ten differences to Greek TortoiseT. graeca graeca, North Africa, southern Spain, Sardinia, the Baleares "Greek Tortoise" or "Spur-thighed Tortoise"

  • T. graeca ibera, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, "Eurasian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca anamurensis, Turkey, "Anamur Tortoise"
  • T. graeca terrestris, southern Israel, "Levantine Tortoise"
  • T. graeca armenica, Armenia, "Armenian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca nikolskii, Caucasus, "Caucasian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca buxtoni, Caspian Sea area, "Caspian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca pallasi, Dagestan, "Dagestanian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca marokkensis, Marocco, "Maroccan Tortoise"
  • T. graeca lamberti, Marocco
  • T. graeca soussensis, Marocco
  • T. graeca nabeulensis, Tunisia, "Tunisian Tortoise"
  • T. graeca floweri
  • T. graeca antakyensis
  • T. graeca flavominimaralis, Libya, "Libyan Tortoise"

This incomplete listing shows the problems in division into subspecies. The differences in form are primarily in size and weight, as well as coloration, which ranges from dark brown to bright yellow, and the types of flecks, ranging from solid colors to many spots. Also, the bending-up of the edges of the carapace ranges from minimal to pronounced. So as not to become lost in the number of subspecies, recently a few tortoises previously classified as Testudo graeca have been assigned to different species, or even different genera.

The genetic richness of Testudo graeca is also shown in their crossbreeding. Tortoises of different form groups often mate, producing offspring with widely differing shapes and color. Perhaps the best means of identification for the future is simply the place of origin.

The smallest, and perhaps the prettiest, of the subspecies is the Tunisian Tortoise. It has a particularly bright and striking coloration. However, these are also the most sensitive tortoises of the species, so that they cannot be kept outdoors in temperate climates, as cold and rainy summers quickly cause the animals to become ill. They are also incapable of a long hibernation.

At the other extreme, animals from northeastern Turkey are very robust, like Herman's Tortoise. The largest specimens come from Bulgaria. There 7 kg (15 lb) specimens have been reported. In comparison, the Tunisian Tortoise has a maximum weight of 0.7 kg (1.5 lb). Testudo graeca is also closely related to the Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata). The two species can interbreed, producing offspring capable of reproduction.

Males differ from females in 6 main points. Firstly, they are generally smaller. Their tails are longer and taper to a point evenly, and the cloacal opening is farther from the base of the tail. The underside is somewhat curved, while females have a flat shell on the underside. The rear portion of a male's carapace is wider than it is long. Finally, the posterior plates of the carapace often flange outward.

Immediately after waking from hibernation, the mating instinct starts up. The males follow the females with great interest, encircling them, biting them in the limbs, ramming them, and trying to mount them. During copulation, the male opens his mouth, showing his red tongue and making squeaking sounds.

Testudo graeca TunisiaDuring mating, the female stands still, bracing herself with her front legs, moving the front part of the body to the left and right in the same rhythm as the male's cries. One successful mating will allow the female to lay eggs multiple times. When breeding in captivity, the females and males must be kept separate. If there are multiple males, one takes on a dominant role and will try, unsuccessfully, to mate with the other males in the pen.

One or two weeks before egg-laying, the animals become notably agitated, moving around to smell and dig in the dirt, even tasting it, before choosing the ideal spot to lay the eggs. One or two days before egg laying, the female takes on an aggressive, dominant behavior, mounting another animal as for copulation and making the same squeaking sound the male produces during copulation. The purpose for this behavior is to produce respect in the tortoise community, so that the female will not be disturbed by the others during egg laying. Further details of egg-laying behavior are the same as those detailed for the Marginated Tortoise.

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Animal in Armenia

Միջերկրյածովյա կրիա (“Mijerkryatsovya kria”)


Threatened species. The number is rapidly decreasing. Included in the Red Books of Armenia and of the former Soviet Unionas well as in the IUCN Red List.

Habitat in Armenia

Registered mainly in semidesert habitats of Araks valley, as well as in Ijevan, Noyemberyan, and Shamshadin regions.

Number in the wild

0.5 – 2 species per hectare registered in Ijevan region. Approximate number in Armenia is few thousands.

Reasons for decrease in number

Intensive use of the territories for other purposes. Non-regulated catch of the turtles.

Number in captivity

Kept in a number zoos of the world, in the Institute of Zoology of Armenia and in The center for Conservation of Biodiversity of Armenia of the Institute of Botany of Armenia. Often kept by terrarium keepers.

Measures of protection taken

Preserved at Khosrov Nature Reserve and The Goravan Sands Sanctuary.

External links

Tadevosyan's Herpetological Resources at http://www.herp-am.narod.ru/Species/tg.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Tortoise