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Other usesautomatic taxobox| name = Tortoises| image =A._gigantea_Aldabra_Giant_Tortoise.jpg| image_width = 250px| image_caption = An Aldabra Giant Tortoise ( Aldabrachelys gigantea )| taxon = Testudinidae| authority = John Edward Gray|Gray 1825cite journal|author=Gray, J.E.|title=A synopsis of the genera of reptiles and amphibia, with a description of some new species|journal= Annals of Philosophy |volume=2|issue=10|pages=193�217|authorlink=John Edward Gray Tortoises (IPAc-en|icon|'|t|??|r|.|t|?|s|.|?|z|, Testudinidae ) are a family of land-dwelling reptile s of the order of turtle s (Testudines). Like their Marine (ocean)|marine cousins, the sea turtle s, tortoises are shielded from predator s by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace , the underside is the plastron , and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise has both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton . Tortoises can vary in size from a few centimeters to two meters. Tortoises are usually Diurnality|diurnal animals with tendencies to be crepuscular depending on the ambient temperatures. They are generally reclusive animals.
Use of the term "tortoise"
Although the word is used by biologists in reference to the family Testudinidae only, in colloquial usage it is often used to describe many land-dwelling Testudines#Turtle, tortoise, or terrapin|turtles . The inclusiveness of the term depends on the variety of English being used. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-turtle.html "Turtle" at sandiegozoo.org
British English normally describes these reptiles as "tortoises" if they live on land.
American English tends to use the word "tortoise" for land-dwelling species, including members of Testudinidae , as well as other species such as box tortoise s, though use of "turtle" for all chelonians is as common.
Australian English uses "tortoise" for terrestrial species, including semi-aquatic species that live near ponds and streams. Traditionally, a "tortoise" has feet (including webbed feet) while a "turtle" has flippers.
Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to thirty eggs.cite web|author=Andy Highfield |url= http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/eggfaq.html |title=Tortoise Trust Egg F.A.Q |publisher=Tortoisetrust.org |date= |accessdate=2009-04-07 Egg laying typically occurs at night, after which the mother tortoise covers her clutch (eggs)|clutch with sand, soil, and organic material. The eggs are left unattended, and depending on the species, take from 60 to 120 days to incubate.cite web|author=Andy Highfield |url= http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/eggfaq.html |title=Tortoise egg incubation |publisher=Tortoisetrust.org |date= |accessdate=2009-04-07 The size of the egg depends on the size of the mother and can be estimated by examining the width of the cloacal opening between the carapace and plastron . The plastron of a female tortoise often has a noticeable V-shaped notch below the tail which facilitates passing the eggs. Upon completion of the incubation period, a fully formed hatchling uses an egg tooth to break out of its shell. It digs to the surface of the nest and begins a life of survival on its own. Hatchlings are born with an embryonic egg sac which serves as a source of nutrition for the first 3 to 7 days until they have the strength and mobility to find food. Juvenile tortoises often require a different balance of nutrients than adults, and therefore may eat foods which a more mature tortoise would not. For example, it is common that the young of a strictly herbivory|herbivorous species will consume worm s or insect larva e for additional protein.
The number of concentric rings on the carapace, much like the cross-section of a tree can sometimes give a clue on how old the animal is, but, since the growth of a tortoise depends highly on the accessibility of food and water; a tortoise that has access to plenty of forage (or is regularly fed by its owner) with no seasonal variation will have no noticeable rings. Moreover, some tortoises grow more than one ring per season and in some others, due to wear, some rings are no longer visible.cite web|last=Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.|title=Shells: Anatomy and Diseases of Turtle and Tortoise Shells|url= http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm? c=17+1797& aid=2700|accessdate=20 December 2011
Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China . The oldest tortoise ever recorded, and one of the oldest individual animals ever recorded, was Tu'i Malila , which was presented to the Tonga n royal family by the British explorer James Cook|Captain Cook shortly after its birth in 1777. Tui Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death by natural causes on May 19, 1965. This means that upon its death, Tui Malila was 188 years old.cite web|url= http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,200831,00.html |title=Tortoise Believed to Have Been Owned by Darwin Dies at 176 - Science News & #124; Science & Technology & #124; Technology News |publisher=FOXNews.com |date=2006-06-26 |accessdate=2009-04-07 The record for the longest-lived vertebrate is exceeded only by one other, a koi named Hanako (Koi Fish)|Hanako whose death on July 17, 1977 ended a 226-year life span. http://www.arborman.com/koioldest.htm HanakoDead link|date=April 2011 The Alipore Zoological Gardens|Alipore Zoo in India was the home to Adwaita , which zoo officials claimed was the oldest living animal until its death on March 23, 2006. Adwaita (sometimes spelled with two d's) was an Aldabra Giant Tortoise brought to India by Lord Wellesley who handed it over to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875 when the zoo was set up. Zoo officials state they have documentation showing that Adwaita was at least 130 years old, but claim that he was over 250 years old (although this has not been scientifically verified). Adwaita was said to be the pet of Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive|Robert Clive .cite news|url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4837988.stm |title=World & #124; South Asia & #124; 'Clive of India's' tortoise dies |publisher=BBC News |date=2006-03-23 |accessdate=2009-04-07
Harriet (turtle)|Harriet was a resident at the Australia Zoo in Queensland from 1987 to her death in 2006, it was believed that she was brought to England by Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle| Beagle and then on to Australia by John Clements Wickham .Thomson, S., S. Irwin, and T. Irwin. 1995. Harriet, the Galapagos tortoise: disclosing one and a half centuries of history. Intermontanus 4 (5):33�35.Thomson, S., S. Irwin, and T. Irwin. 1996. Harriet: La tortuga de Gal�pagos. Reptilia 2 (4):46�49. Harriet died on June 23, 2006, just shy of her 176th birthday.
Timothy (tortoise)|Timothy , a spur-thighed tortoise , lived to be approximately 165 years old. For 38 years she was carried as a mascot aboard various ships in Britain's Royal Navy . Then in 1892, at age 53 she retired to the grounds of Powderham Castle in Devon . Up to the time of her death in 2004 she was believed to be the United Kingdom's oldest resident.
According to articles published by the Daily Mail and the Times in December 2008, Jonathan (tortoise)|Jonathan , a Dipsochelys hololissa|Seychelles Giant tortoise living on the island of St Helena may be as old as 176 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1091654/Jonathan-176-year-old-tortoise-revealed-worlds-oldest-animal-Boer-War-photo.html Jonathan the 176-year-old tortoise revealed as world's oldest animal in Boer War photoDaily Mail, December 5, 2008 or 178 years. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article5282403.ece Boer War memento puts years on Jonathan the tortoise. The Times, December 4, 2008 If this is true, he could be the current oldest living animal on Earth.
Many species of tortoises are sexual dimorphism|sexually dimorphic , though the differences between males and females vary from species to species. In some species, males have a longer, more protruding neck plate than their female counterparts, while in others the claws are longer on the females. In most tortoise species, the female tends to be larger than the male. The male also has a plastron that is curved inwards to aid reproduction. The easiest way to determine the sex of a tortoise is to look at the tail. The females, as a general rule have a smaller tail which is dropped down whereas the males have a much longer tail which is usually pulled up and to the side of the rear shell.
Giant tortoises move very slowly on dry land, at only convert|0.17|mph|km/h.2003 Grolier Encyclopedia, The Great Book of Knowledge, The Speed of Animals, pp. 278
Most land based tortoises are herbivory|herbivores , feeding on grazing grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers, and some fruits although there are some omnivorous species in this family. Pet tortoises typically require a diet based on wild grasses, weeds, leafy greens and certain flowers. Certain species consume worm s or insect s and carrion in their normal habitat. Too much protein is detrimental in herbivorous species and has been associated with shell deformities and other medical problems. As different tortoise species vary greatly in their nutritional requirements it is essential to thoroughly research the dietary needs of an individual tortoise.
The following species list largely follows Rhodin et al., 2010,Anders G.J. Rhodin, Peter Paul van Dijk, John B. Iverson, and H. Bradley Shaffer. 2010. http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/wp-content/uploads/file/Accounts/crm_5_000_checklist_v3_2010.pdf Turtles of the World, 2010 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status this is a work in progress. Family Testudinidae Batsch 1788Batsch, A.J.G.C. 1788. Versuch einer Anleitung zur Kenntniss und Geschichte der Thiere und Mineralien. Erster Theil. Allgemeine Geschichte der Natur; besondre der S�ugthiere, V�gel, Amphibien und Fische. Jena: Akademischen Buchandlung, 528 pp.
Cylindraspis (All species Extinct) Following Austin and Arnold, 2001.Austin, J.J., Arnold, E.N. 2001 http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/268/1485/2515.full.pdf Ancient mitochondrial DNA and morphology elucidate an extinct island radiation of Indian Ocean giant tortoises (Cylindraspis). Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Volume 268, Number 1485, Pages: 2515-2523.
In Hinduism , Kurma (lang-sa|?????) was the second Avatar of Vishnu . Like the Matsya Avatar a also belongs to the Satya Yuga . Vishnu took the form of a half-man half-tortoise, the lower half being a tortoise. He is normally shown as having four arms. He sat on the bottom of the ocean after the Deluge (mythology)|Great Flood . A mountain was placed on his back by the other deity|gods so that they could churn the sea and find the ancient treasures of the Vedic period|Vedic peoples. Tortoise shells were used by ancient Chinese as Oracle Bones to make predictions. clear
Main|Cultural depictions of turtles and tortoisesclr
cite book |title=A Sheltered Life: The Unexpected History of the Giant Tortoise |last=Chambers |first=Paul |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2004 |publisher=John Murray |location=London |isbn=0-7195-6528-6 |pages= |url=
cite book |title=Turtles of the World |last=Ernst |first=C. H. |authorlink= |coauthors=Barbour, R. W. |year=1989 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution Press |location=Washington, DC |isbn= |pages= |url=
cite book |title=Giant Tortoises of the Indian Ocean |last=Gerlach |first=Justin |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2004 |publisher=Chimiara |location=Frankfurt |isbn= |pages= |url=
cite journal |last=Kuyl |first=Antoinette C. van der |coauthors= et al. |year=2002 |month= Feb|title=Phylogenetic Relationships among the Species of the Genus Testudo (Testudines: Testudinidae) Inferred from Mitochondrial 12S rRNA Gene Sequences |journal=Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution |volume=22|issue=2 |pages=174�183 |doi=10.1006/mpev.2001.1052|accessdate= |pmid=11820839 |last1=Van Der Kuyl |first1=AC |last2=Ph Ballasina |first2=DL |last3=Dekker |first3=JT |last4=Maas |first4=J |last5=Willemsen |first5=RE |last6=Goudsmit |first6=J |issn=1055-7903
http://www.reptile-database.org The Reptile Database
http://www.jcvi.org/reptiles/families/testudinidae.php Family Testudinidae (Tortoises) of The Reptile Database
http://www.tortoise-protection-group.org.uk Tortoise Protection Group: Tortoise conservation information
http://www.chelonia.org/ Chelonia: Conservation and care of turtles.