Tuesday 18 June
Serrated hinge-back tortoise (Kinixys erosa)
Serrated hinge-back tortoise fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Serrated hinge-back tortoise description
Hinge-backed tortoises (species belonging to the genus Kinixys) have the remarkable ability to shut themselves entirely within their shells (4). This is due to the hinge at the back of the carapace (or shell) that can close off the tortoise’s hind legs and tail (4). The serrated hinge-back tortoise has a slightly concave shell that is reddish-brown and yellow in colour (2) (5). The scales at the rear of the shell have upturned edges, giving, as the common name suggests, a serrated appearance (2). The head is rounded and the tail has a small, claw-like protuberance at the tip. Male serrated hinge-back tortoises can be distinguished from females by their longer and thicker tails (2).
- Also known as
- eroded hinge-back tortoise, forest hinged tortoise.
- Kinixys Rongée, Tortue Articulée D'Afrique.
- Length: up to 37.5 cm (2)
- World Chelonian Trust:
- Turtle Conservation Fund:
- Turtle Survival Alliance:
- Turtles of the World (CD-ROM), by Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W.:
- Dead flesh.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Animals with no backbone.
- An organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
- IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- Spawls, S., Howell, K., Drewes, R.C. and Ashe, J. (2004) Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, London.
- CITES (October, 2007)
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- Alderton, D. (1988) Turtles and Tortoises of the World. Blandford Press, London.
- Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands. Available at:
- Luiselli, L. (2005) Aspects of comparative thermal ecology of sympatric hinge-back tortoises (Kinixys homeana and Kinixys erosa) in the Niger Delta, southern Nigeria. African Journal of Ecology, 43(1): 64 - 69.
- Luiselli, L. (2003) Seasonal activity patterns and diet divergence of three sympatric Afrotropical tortoise species (genus Kinixys). Contributions to Zoology, 72(4): 211 - 220.
- Luiselli, L., Politano, E. and Akani, G.C. (2003) Seasonal incidence, sex-ratio, and population cohorts of hinge-back tortoises (genus Kinixys) in the wild and in bush-meat markets of the Niger Delta, southern Nigeria: are human predation effects random?. Revue de Ecologie - La Terre et la Vie, 58: 243 - 248.
- Luiselli, L. (2003) Comparative abundance and population structure of sympatric Afrotropical tortoises in six rainforest areas: the differential effects of “traditional veneration” and of “subsistence hunting” by local people. Acta Oecologica, 24(3): 157 - 163.
- Luiselli, L. (2009) Pers. comm.
- 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.
Serrated hinge-back tortoise biology
The serrated hinge-back tortoise can often be found under logs, in holes or in leaf litter, where it uses its strong legs and upturned shell edges to wedge itself into a protected shelter (2). When in the open, the hinge-back tortoise can defend itself by withdrawing its limbs and closing its shell (2). By resting and moving in the shade, the serrated hinge-back tortoise avoids overheating in its hot, tropical environment (7). It is also a reasonable swimmer and will frequently seek out marshes and river banks in the forest (4).
Like all Kinixys species, the serrated hinge-back tortoise is omnivorous, and feeds on fungi, fruits, plant matter, invertebrates and even carrion (2) (8). During the breeding season it is thought that males fight (2), competing for females to mate with. Females lay several clutches of four eggs on the ground and cover them up with leaves (2) (4). The sex ratio is close to 1:1, and females grow to a larger size than males (9).Top
Serrated hinge-back tortoise range
Occurs in West Africa from the Gambia, east to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and south to southern Angola (6).Top
Serrated hinge-back tortoise habitat
The serrated hinge-back tortoise inhabits low to mid-altitude forest (2), where it is nearly always observed in shady areas (7). It is reportedly fond of swampy areas, but in Ghana occurs mostly in dry clearings and open areas (2).Top
Serrated hinge-back tortoise statusTop
Serrated hinge-back tortoise threats
Hinge-back tortoises are actively hunted by humans in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly for domestic consumption (9) (10). The flesh is highly prized as food by some forest peoples, and hunting is often carried out by dogs which locate the tortoise by its distinctive smell (2). The species is also vulnerable to habitat fragmentation in parts of its range (for example, in south-eastern Nigeria) (9), but appears to still be relatively widespread in the central African forests. Thus, it is possibly not particularly vulnerable to the impacts of habitat destruction at a large scale (2) (11).Top
Serrated hinge-back tortoise conservation
Whilst in some areas the serrated hinge-back tortoise is hunted, in others this tortoise is worshipped by local communities. They believe it brings happiness, is a symbol of peace and a sign of abundant children (10). This ‘holy’ status may afford some populations a degree of protection. The serrated hinge-back tortoise is listed on Appendix II of he Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this tortoise should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with its survival (3). However, as there is insufficient information to determine the status of the hinge-back tortoise in the wild (1), it can not be determined if the tortoise is being taken from the wild at sustainable levels. Therefore, further research and surveys are required to ensure that this trade is not putting the serrated hinge-back tortoise at risk of extinction.Top
Find out more
For more information on tortoises and turtles and their conservation, see:
Authenticated (06/08/09) by Dr Luca Luiselli, Senior Researcher in Ecology, Institute Demetra, Rome, Italy.
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.