Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)

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Radiated tortoise, lateral view
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Radiated tortoise fact file

Radiated tortoise description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyTestudinidae
GenusAstrochelys  (1)

The radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) of Madagascar is one of the most attractive of all the tortoises. The high-domed, dark carapace is marked by brilliant yellow lines that radiate from the centre of each plate and create this tortoise's distinctive pattern (2). As individuals age, the dark pigment in the shell fades, producing a lighter coloured shell (4). The legs, feet and blunt-shaped head are also yellow in colour with the exception of a dark patch on the top of the head (2). Males can be distinguished by their longer tails and a notch in the under shell (plastron), below the tail (2). Juveniles are black and off-white when they hatch, but quickly develop the adult's striking colouration (2).

Synonyms
Asterochelys radiata, Geochelone radiata, Testudo coui, Testudo desertorum, Testudo hypselonata, Testudo radiata.
French
Tortue Radiée De Madagascar, Tortue Rayonnée.
Spanish
Tortuga Estrellada De Madagascar, Tortuga Rayada.
Size
Carapace length: up to 40 cm (2)
Weight
up to 16 kg (2)
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Radiated tortoise biology

Males reach sexual maturity once they have attained a carapace length of around 30 cm (2). Rival males will fight during the breeding season and attempt to roll one another onto their backs. They initiate courtship by a head-bobbing display and smelling the female's hind legs. This is followed by energetic circling and butting of the female's carapace. Once mating has occurred, the female lays her clutch of 3–12 eggs in a nest dug into the ground (2). Eggs are laid at the end of the wet season, between February and April, and hatch after 10 months or more (4). Hatchlings emerge within a few weeks of one another at the onset of the next rains, in November or December (4).

Radiated tortoises graze on vegetation such as leaves and grasses, flowers, fruit and cacti (2). During much of the year dead leaves also make up a substantial part of their diet (4).

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Radiated tortoise range

Endemic to Madagascar, the radiated tortoise is restricted to southern areas of the island (5).

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Radiated tortoise habitat

Inhabits the dry thorn forests and tropical woodlands of southern Madagascar (2).

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Radiated tortoise status

The radiated tortoise is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Radiated tortoise threats

The island of Madagascar has suffered widespread habitat destruction as the land is cleared to make way for charcoal production and short-term unsustainable development (4). In addition to habitat loss, these striking tortoises are targeted by the international pet trade and are also captured for food in some areas (2).

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Radiated tortoise conservation

International trade in radiated tortoises is prohibited by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). A number of conservation initiatives have recently begun under the jurisdiction of international conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) (4).

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

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Glossary

Carapace
The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Plastron
In reptiles, the ventral shell of a turtle or tortoise.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Animal Diversity Web (September, 2003)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/geochelone/g._radiata$narrative.html
  3. CITES (September, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Gibson, R. (2004) Pers. comm.
  5. World Turtle Database (September, 2003)
    http://emys.geo.orst.edu/
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Image credit

Radiated tortoise, lateral view  
Radiated tortoise, lateral view

© Kevin Schafer / www.photoshot.com

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