Different Types of Tortoises


Tortoises, turtles and terrapins are all reptiles in the taxonomic order Testudines. A tortoise is distinct from other members of the order Testudines by its habitat; unlike turtles and terrapins, tortoises live exclusively in terrestrial habitats. Tortoises belong to the family Testudinidae, which encompasses about 11 genera and 40–50 species. Tortoises are characterized by their stumpy legs, hard shells and extremely long life spans, with some species reaching over 150 years of age.

Galapagos Tortoise

  • Perhaps the most easily recognized tortoise is the Galapagos tortoise, described by naturalist Charles Darwin in his visits to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. The Galapagos tortoise is considered to be the longest lived of all vertebrates, with an average lifespan of over 100 years. Galapagos tortoises are also the largest of the tortoise species, with some specimens reaching 550 pounds and 5 feet in length. Galapagos tortoises are herbivores and are under threat from both humans and non-native species in their habitats that were introduced by visiting sailors in past centuries. The destruction of eggs, adult tortoises and threatened food sources have made the 15,000 remaining tortoises on the Galapagos Islands an endangered species.

Gopher Tortoise

  • The gopher tortoise, found in the southeastern United States, is a burrowing species of tortoise with strong, shovel-like front legs that prefers to inhabit dry, sandy uplands. The gopher tortoise is the only tortoise species in the eastern United States. Gopher tortoises are herbivores, eating plants ranging from pine nettles to cacti, and they get almost all of their water from their diet. Gopher tortoise burrows are up to 10 feet deep and 40 feet long and have a key role in the ecosystem as an escape route for other species from the wildfires that are normal occurrences in the dry ecosystem. Nearly 400 species are known to use gopher tortoise burrows.

Red-Footed Tortoise

  • The red-footed tortoise is one of three known tortoise species that lives in South America and is noted for the bright red coloring that appears on its legs. This tortoise species is primarily herbivorous, although it has also been known to eat small amounts of carrion and insects when it can catch them. The red-footed tortoise inhabits an extensive range across most of northern South America and southern Central America. Red-footed tortoises are nomadic and wander from place to place in search of food. The red-footed tortoise has a similar range and habitat as the yellow-footed tortoise, and unfortunately for those wishing to easily distinguish between the two species, each can have scales of either color on its legs. These two species of tortoise are usually distinguished by the length of the scales on the top of their heads.

Cape Speckled Padloper Tortoise

  • Quite possibly the smallest tortoise species, the cape speckled padloper tortoise is a minute tortoise measuring only 4 inches in length. This tortoise lives in rocky outcrops and dry scrublands in South Africa's Western Cape. When temperatures become too hot, these tiny tortoises can aestivate, which means they enter a form of hibernation until conditions improve. In the winter, when temperatures reach below freezing, the tortoises brumate, which is a period of hibernation with interspersed periods of wakefulness. These tortoises prefer to eat water-filled plants but are usually competing for their food with livestock. They are also prized as pets, threatening their numbers in the wild.


  • Photo Credit EcoPic/iStock/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • How to Identify Oklahoma Water Turtles

    Oklahoma is the home of 15 different types of aquatic turtle species, notes the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. These turtles belong...

  • Types of North Carolina Turtles

    Turtles are commonly found in North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast. There are 21 species of turtles in North Carolina....

  • What Turtles Are Best for Pets?

    Several turtle species make good pets, but the best captives share several key traits. They are typically small, hardy animals whose dispositions,...

  • List of Tortoises

    There are more than 70 different types of tortoises on planet earth, each of them having different sizes, colors and shapes. Tortoises...

  • Different Species of Tortoises in Texas

    Tortoises are large, land-dwelling members of the turtle family. Only two tortoise species are native to the United States and only four...

  • Facts About Desert Tortoises for Kids

    Desert tortoises are easily recognizable by their turtle-like appearance: a brown or tan domed shell, thick legs and long, reaching neck. But...

Related Searches

Check It Out

How to Build and Grow a Salad Garden On Your Balcony

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!