Tortoises are land-dwelling reptiles of the order Testudines. Tortoises, like their aquatic cousins, turtles, have a hard shell which protects their body.
These fascinating creatures have existed since the era of the dinosaurs, around 300 million years ago. Most tortoises are quite small, but some island tortoises like the Giant Tortoises found on the Galapagos islands have evolved to a much larger size.
You can find tortoises in lots of different countries around the world, and in many different types of habitats from deserts to lakes, lagoons and swamps and tropical forests.
Tortoises hibernate in the winter time and empty their stomachs before winter to prepare for their hibernation. They are herbivores meaning they only plants such as grass, ferns, flowers, tree leaves and fruit.
All tortoises can live a very long time (anywhere from 50 to 100 years), and the oldest Giant tortoise ever recorded lived to 152 years old!
Female tortoises dig and lay about a dozen eggs in burrows or holes. Hatchlings take around 90 – 120 days to incubate from eggs the size of a ping-pong ball.
Pet tortoises are popular because they are quiet, cute and don't shed any fur!
Some Interesting Facts
- Giant tortoises can grow up to 5 feet in length.
- Tortoises can retract their heads and all their limbs into their shells when they feel threatened by predators.
- The shell of a tortoise is made up of 60 different bones all connected to each other.
- Female tortoises are usually larger than males.