Sunday 19 May
Berlandier’s tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Berlandier’s tortoise fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Berlandier’s tortoise description
A North American species, Berlandier's tortoise has a somewhat oblong, rather flat-topped carapace (upper shell) with a rough, ridged appearance. The carapace is largely brown, with yellowish-orange centres to some of the scutes (2) (4), while the plastron (lower shell) is yellow. The wedge-shaped head has a pointed snout and a slightly hooked upper jaw (2). The sturdy hind legs are columnar and somewhat resemble those of an elephant (4). The head, limbs and tail are all yellowish-brown (2). Male Berlandier’s tortoises can be distinguished by their slightly longer and narrower carapace and their concave plastron (2).
- Also known as
- Texas tortoise.
- Gopherus polyphemus berlandieri, Scaptochelys berlandieri, Testudo berlandieri, Xerobates berlandieri.
- Gophère Du Texas, Tortue Du Texas.
- Tortuga De Texas.
- Carapace length: up to 24 cm (2)
- The top shell of a turtle or tortoise. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head), also known as the ‘cephalothorax’.
- The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
- Feeding on both plants and animals.
- The lower shell of a turtle or tortoise.
- Large, bony plates or scales on the upper or lower shell of a turtle or tortoise.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
- Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands.
CITES (June, 2007)
Texas Parks and Wildlife (May, 2008)
- Alderton, D. (1998) Turtles and Tortoises of the World. Blandford Press, London.
- Fergus, C. (2007) Turtles. Stackpole Books, US.
- Groombridge, B. (1982) The IUCN Amphibia-Reptilia Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Berlandier’s tortoise biology
The omnivorous Berlandier’s tortoise feeds primarily on grasses and herbs (2), but when these are in short supply the red fruits, flowers and stems of Opuntia cacti (prickly pears) are often eaten (2) (5). Insects, snails, faecal matter and animal bones may also be consumed (2).
Unlike other species of Gopherus, such as the burrowing gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), Berlandier’s tortoise does not dig an extensive burrow. Instead, it uses its forelimbs and the sides of its shell to push away debris and soil to create a shallow resting place called a pallet (2). This pallet is generally located under a bush or cactus, and as the tortoise returns to use the pallet again and again, the pallet gradually deepens, reaching depths of 1.5 metres. Sometimes, Berlandier’s tortoise uses a suitably-sized mammal burrow and may excavate it further (2).
In Texas, the courtship and mating season of Berlandier’s tortoise extends from June until September. During courtship, the male follows the female, bobbing his head in her direction. Eventually catching up with the female, the male attempts to stop her by biting her head, forefeet and the back of her shell and by ramming her with his gular projection, a sturdy extension on the front of the lower shell, just below the chin (2). The female will often pivot around to avoid this, but eventually stops and withdraws her head, as the male continues to push her around. Finally, he will mount her from behind, with his forefeet resting on her shell, and mating takes place (2).
Nesting takes place between April and July, with the female laying a small clutch of eggs (usually two or three eggs) in a depression in the ground. One or two clutches are laid each year and the eggs hatch after 88 to 118 days of incubation (2). Berlandier’s tortoise is slow to mature and it is thought that females may not breed successfully until they are over a decade old (2) (5).Top
Berlandier’s tortoise range
Berlandier's tortoise occurs in southern Texas, U.S.A. and north-east Mexico (5).Top
Berlandier’s tortoise habitat
Berlandier’s tortoise inhabits semi-desert areas in Mexico, from sea level up to elevations of 884 metres, and scrub forests in humid and subtropical areas of southern Texas up to 100 or 200 metres (2) (6). It shows a preference for well-drained, sandy soils and open scrub woods (2).Top
Berlandier’s tortoise statusTop
Berlandier’s tortoise threats
In some parts of its range, Berlandier’s tortoise numbers are falling as a result of intensive agriculture (2). While light grazing by cattle can be beneficial, as it encourages growth of prickly pears, large-scale intensive agriculture destroys the natural habitat of this reptile (6). Such impacts have been particularly felt in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where over 90 percent of semi-desert habitat has been destroyed by farming operations (2) (6), and 80 percent of the remaining suitable habitat is unprotected and threatened by development. In the past, many Berlandier’s tortoises were collected for the pet trade (2). While this is now illegal in Texas, a trade in this species continues and a lesser number are exploited for food (7). In addition, many Berlandier’s tortoises are killed each year on roads (2).Top
Berlandier’s tortoise conservation
Fortunately for Berlandier’s tortoise, in areas where cattle grazing predominates, suitable, healthy habitat remains (6), and this tortoise has been protected by law in Texas since 1967 (2), where it is listed as Threatened (4). Its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) means that any international trade requires a permit and trade levels are monitored (3).Top
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.