Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca)

loading
Greek tortoise, anterior view
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Greek tortoise fact file

Greek tortoise description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyTestudinidae
GenusTestudo (1)

The Greek tortoise is also known as the spur-thighed tortoise for the large conical tubercle it has on each thigh. Several subspecies are recognised, which vary greatly in colour and size. The high, domed upper shell (carapace) is around 20 cm in length in T. g. graeca, but almost twice as large in T. g. ibera. The carapace varies from yellow or tan with black or dark-brown blotching to totally grey or black, while the lower shell (plastron) may be yellow to greenish-yellow, brown, or grey, with some dark-brown or black markings. Neck, limbs, and tail are yellowish brown to grey, while the head ranges from yellow to brown, grey, or black, with or without dark spotting. Large, overlapping scales cover the front of the forelimbs and there are five claws on each foot (2).

Also known as
common tortoise, Moorish tortoise, spur-thighed tortoise.
French
Tortue Mauresque.
Spanish
Tortuga Mora.
Size
Carapace length: 20 cm (2)
Top

Greek tortoise biology

North African populations mate from April to May, and again in autumn, but this varies greatly according to locality and altitude. Nesting occurs in May and June and more than one clutch may be produced each season. Eurasian and Middle Eastern tortoises generally nest in May or June, but nesting has been observed from April to July. Clutches typically contain between one and seven eggs (average three to four), but large Algerian tortoises (T. g. whitei) lay clutches of as many as 12 to 14 eggs. Depending on their location, this species may hibernate during winter, and aestivate throughout summer (2).

The Greek tortoise is herbivorous, feeding on a variety of herbaceous plants and grasses across its range (2).

Top

Greek tortoise range

Native to southern Spain, northern Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East (3).

Top

Greek tortoise habitat

North African populations occupy semi-arid scrub, grassland and brush areas in the Atlas Mountains to approximately 1,900 m above sea level, but can also be found among coastal dunes, marshland borders, rocky, brushy hillsides, and pine woods (2) (4). Eurasian and Middle-Eastern populations are found on plateaus and mountains to about 2,700 m above sea level, most often on dry open steppes, barren hillsides, and wastelands where vegetation varies from sea dune grasses to scrub thorn or dry woodlands (2).

Top

Greek tortoise status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). There are several recognised subspecies, although taxonomic classification continues to be hotly debated. The IUCN only lists one subspecies, T. g. nikolskii, which is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

Top

Greek tortoise threats

The Greek tortoise is threatened by illegal harvesting for the pet trade, as well as habitat loss and degradation, mostly due to overgrazing by livestock (5).

Top

Greek tortoise conservation

Various studies have been conducted into the population status, ecology and biology of the Greek tortoise, but these have largely been restricted to the northern part of its range, notably in Spain and Greece (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Authentication

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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
Top

Glossary

Aestivation
Period of dormancy occurring in hot, dry periods, analogous to hibernation in winter.
Herbivorous
Diet comprises only vegetable matter.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Turtles of the World (CD-ROM), by Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (February, 2007)
    http://ip30.eti.uva.nl/BIS/turtles.php?selected=beschrijving&menuentry=soorten&id=395
  3. CITES (January, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Tortoise Trust (February, 2007)
    http://www.tortoisetrust.org/care/cgraeca.html
  5. Kaddour, B., Slimani, T., El Mouden, E.H., Lagarde, F. and Bonnet, X. (2006) Population Structure, Population Density and Individual Catchability of Testudo graeca in the Central Jbilets (Morocco). Vie et Milieu, 56(1): 49 - 54.
X
Close

Image credit

Greek tortoise, anterior view  
Greek tortoise, anterior view

© Eyal Bartov

Eyal Bartov
bartove@netvision.net.il
http://www.eyalbartov.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in the Mediterranean Basin eco-region

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS