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GOPHER TORTOISE

GOPHER TORTOISEGopherus polyphemus

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Habitat loss, road mortality, predation, disease

statusbar_vulnerable copy

CLASS

Reptilia

ORDER

Testudines

FAMILY

Testudinidae

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General Characteristics:

Color: 

Brown in color

Size:

Up to 19 inches

Weight:

193.83 oz - 5500 g (12.1 lbs)

Average Lifespan: 

8.5 years

Captive Lifespan:

86 years

Distribution:

Found in the southeastern part of the United States, including southwestern South Carolina, south almost to the tip of the Florida peninsula; west through southern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana and the edge of southeastern Texas and Arkansas.

Habitat:

Sand dune areas and longleaf pine forests

Reproduction:

Mating: 

Continuous from spring until fall 

Gestation/Incubation:

90-120 days

Litter/Clutch Size:

5-6 eggs

Mature: 

15-20 years

Diet:

Feed on grasses, cacti and other succulents, and flowers

Behavior:

Contructs a burrow for use as a retreat from predators and the weather. Will use deeper burrows to hibernate for the winter. Diurnal. Young are protected by parents in burrows.

Teaching Facts:

1. Very social, head-bob at one another whenever they meet. 

2. Male to male encounters will escalate into ramming contestes using the gular projections on the plastron. 

3. These tortoised are increasingly collected illegally for the Asian food markets.

4. They are a keystone species.  Burrows used by over 100 other species.

5. Sex is temperature dependent. Greater than 86 F is female, less than is male