Tortoises ( Testudinidae ) - Are These The Longest-Living Land Animals..?

Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Reptilia
Order - Testudines
Family - Testudinidae 

           The family Testudinidae of the order Testudines includes turtles as reptiles (Latin: tortoise). Tortoises, like other turtles, have a shell to shield them from predators and other dangers. Since tortoises often have strong shells, they defend themselves by straightening their heads and necks into the shell, like other members of the suborder Cryptodira.

          All continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica, are home to turtles, which are only terrestrial in nature. They live on many islands as well, but because of human habitation, many island populations and species are now extinct. Living tortoises belong to at least 15 different genera, with one of them, Geochelone, having a range that extends from South America to Africa and Asia. There are roughly 49 different species of tortoises, ranging in size from the southern African padlopers (Homopus), with shells that are 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) long, to the giant tortoises (Geochelone), which have shells that are over 1 meter (3.3 feet) long on the Aldabra and Galapagos islands. Tortoises may be found in a range of environments, including dry tropical forests and deserts. Some tortoise species from damp forest settings are more opportunistic and devour animal stuff. However, the majority of tortoises are vegetarians and eat leaves, flowers, and fruits. They are mostly nocturnal creatures with a tendency to become crepuscular when the temperature changes. They are often solitary creatures. The longest-living species of tortoise is up for discussion, however, they are the world's longest-living terrestrial animals. Although it is known that gal pagos tortoises may live for more than 150 years, Adwaita, an Aldabra giant tortoise, is said to have lived for as long as 255 years. The majority of tortoise species may live 80 to 150 years on average.


Tortoises have high-domed shells or carapaces, and they are cold-blooded, or ectothermic creatures. Malachochersus thornier, a kind of pancake tortoise, is the only species with a flat shell. They can withdraw their heads and necks within their shells for safety, like the majority of turtles can. They are the only vertebrates with shells, as well as the only vertebrates whose pectoral and pelvic girdles are placed within their ribcages.

Hide inside the shells(Copyright © -

    The 59–61 bones that make up their shells are protected by plates known as scutes. The words "scute" and "scoot" have the same sound. Scutes can also divide into segments, which gives tortoise shells their distinctive patterns. The plastron is the shell's underside, and a bridge connects the two parts. Since keratin makes up the majority of a tortoise's shell, it is similar to how humans may feel pain via their fingernails.

Skeleton of a tortoise - (Copyright © - Wikipedia)

A skeleton of Aldabra giant tortoise - (Copyright © - Wikipedia)

Its jaw is devoid of teeth. Despite having no teeth, this animal can break apart food and other objects with the help of its horny beak. Elephantine, or cylindrical, hind limbs and hind feet are unique features of the hind limb anatomy that are shared by all tortoises. There are two or fewer phalanges on each of the animal's forefeet and rear feet.

Anatomy - (Copyright © -

Sexual dimorphism

Even though the differences between males and females vary from species to species, many species of tortoises are sexually dimorphic. In certain species, the males' neck plates are longer and more pronounced than those of the females, whereas, in others, the females' claws are longer.

  To help in reproduction, the male plastron is bent inward. Analyzing a tortoise's tail will reveal its gender most easily. The males often have considerably longer tails that are drawn up and to the side of the rear shell, whilst the females typically have smaller, dropped-down tails.


The majority of tortoises are diurnal, which means they are up during the day and asleep at night. However, many species have a tendency to be crepuscular, which means that they are most active around dusk. All species of tortoises are solitary, peaceful animals. The average pace of a tortoise is said to be between 0.2 and 0.5 kilometers per hour, which is why they are notorious for moving so slowly. Tortoises don't have ears, thus they rely more on eyesight and smell than on hearing.

Tortoises sunbathe for one to two hours after sunrise to take in heat during the day because they are cold-blooded creatures. They then scavenge for food for several hours. They often migrate in the early morning and late afternoon, and they take dust baths to ward off bugs. The only times that turtles vocalize are when they are mating or when they are being hostile.


With the exception of Australia and Antarctica, the tortoise may be found on every continent. Species can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean basin, Madagascar, southern North America, southern South America, several Pacific Islands, southeast Asia, Eurasia, and Madagascar. They may survive at sea level or in higher hilly terrain, and they normally favor semi-arid temperatures, however, they can be found anywhere from deserts to tropical rainforests.

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Food and Diet

As strict herbivores, tortoises often eat grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers, and certain fruits. But occasionally, bird hunting and birds eating have been noted. Pet tortoises often need diets made up of weeds, leafy greens, natural grasses, and some types of flowers. In their natural environments, several species eat carrion, worms, or insects. In herbivorous organisms, too much protein is harmful and has been linked to shell malformations and other health issues. The dietary needs of various tortoise species differ substantially.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The majority of tortoise species mate all year long. The male tortoise slams the female tortoise's shell with his shell to start the mating process. He may also bite at her legs. The convex shells at play make copulation challenging, yet the male positions himself precariously to make it happen.

To dig their nests, female tortoises utilize their hind limbs. The clutch is covered with earth, sand, and organic substances after the eggs are laid at night. The eggs are left unattended for the 100–160 day-long typical incubation period. The ping-pong-ball-sized eggs are cracked open by fully developed hatchlings using their egg teeth, who then burrow their way to the surface. Their embryonic egg sac, which gives sustenance for the first three to seven days after hatching, is present. Baby tortoises travel to their mother's burrow, where she shelters them until they are independent, which takes around 80 days.

Baby Testudo marginata emerges from its egg - © - Wikipedia
A Baby Tortoise - © - Wikipedia
22-year-old leopard tortoise - © - Wikipedia

The world's longest-living land animal is a tortoise. They live between 80 and 150 years on average. There are several instances of long-living tortoises in historical records. One of the most famous, Tui Malila, was given to the Tongan people in 1777 as a gift by explorer James Cook. Tui Malila passed away in 1965 at the age of 188.

Relations with Human 

♦ Kurma (Sanskrit: कुर्म ) was regarded as Vishnu's second Avatar in Hinduism. Kurma is a Satya Yuga being, just as the Matsya Avatara. Vishnu adopted the shape of a creature with a tortoise-like lower half and a human upper half. Typically, he is shown as having four arms. After the Great Flood, he reclined on the ocean floor. The other gods put a mountain on his shoulders so they might churn the waters and discover the ancient treasures of the Vedic people.

♦ In early Christianity and Judaism, tortoises were regarded as filthy creatures.

♦ The ancient Chinese utilized tortoise shells as oracle bones to make predictions.

♦ The Greek deity Hermes is represented by the tortoise.

(Source: Wikipedia /

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