card
129

radiated tortoise

OLogy Series
animal
card
129

radiated tortoise

OLogy Series
animal

This beautiful tortoise lives in the deserts of Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. This reptile gets its name from the bright yellow "radiating" (star) pattern on its shell. In the wild, these tortoises eat grasses, cacti, and shrubs. They are endangered due to the destruction of their habitat and because people buy them illegally as pets.

Otherwise Known As Sokakes
The radiated tortoise might have become extinct long ago if not for the help of the Antandroy people of Madagascar. These people call this creature "Sokakes" and have protected it for many years. In fact, some Antandroy villages have taken care of specific radiated tortoises for many decades. Until 1925, the tortoises were protected from hunters and other predators by opuntia, protective cactus thickets planted by the Antandroy people. These plants acted like a barrier and protected the radiated tortoise. Unfortunately, these plants were wiped out by an invasion of the Dactylopius coccus beetle. Today, the people of Madagascar are doing everything they can to help save this beautiful reptile.

To cool off in the desert heat, a radiated tortoise will sometimes:

bury its body in soil

take a cold shower

remove its carapace (shell)

Are you right?

Correct!

The radiated tortoise's carapace (shell) is not removable. To cool off, this tortoise may burrow its body into the soil. Because the soil is not exposed to the sun, it's a nice place to cool off on a hot day.

Male radiated tortoises compete for female tortoises by:

shining their shells

doing a dance

butting their shells into rival males

Are you right?

Correct!

Male tortoises compete with other male tortoises when it comes to finding a mate. Radiated tortoises will often fight by running their shells into each other.

Radiated tortoises usually only live to be ten years old.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Radiated tortoises have been known to live longer than many humans. Some tortoises have lived more than 100 years in captivity.

When a radiated tortoise is captured, it rolls over and plays dead.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

When a radiated tortoise is caught, it makes high-pitched cries for up to an hour. Once in captivity, it can be silent for years.

radiated tortoise
Scientific name: Geochelone radiata
Size: 14 to 15 inches long
Diet: cacti, fruit, and other veggies
Habitat: dry region on the island of Madagascar
Characteristics: dark shell with yellow lines resembling triangles down its back; yellow and dark brown head
Threats: the pet trade, and overhunting

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH, spectrum of life in Hall of Biodiversity.