AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Photos & Descriptions

Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:44 pm

Order: Testudines (Turtles & Tortoises)
Land Tortoises - Pond or marsh turtles - Terrapins - Sea turtles)


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Upload your pic and add a description underneath. Please only do one species per post. All entries will be edited and updated (additional photos and information will be added by moderators). New entries will be posted according to taxonomic order and the post date does not reflect the actual date of new posts.


Please don't post any comments here ;-) Comments are welcome here.

Index to Turtles & Tortoises

Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:44 pm

Land Tortoises

Family: Testudinidae
Chersina angulata Angulate Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 872#p79328
Homopus areolatus Common Padlooper, Parrot-beaked Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 13#p244613
Kinixys belliana zombensis Southeastern Hinged-back Tortoise, Bell's Hinged-back Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 04#p262704
Kinixys spekii Speke's Hinged-back Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 037#p83037
Psammobates tentorius Common Tent Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 099#p81099
Stigmochelys pardalis Leopard Tortoise http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 06#p122306


Pond or Marsh Turtles


Terrapins

Family: Pelomedusidae
Pelomedusa galeata Marsh Terrapin http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 180#p81180
Pelusios sinuatus Serrated Hinged Terrapin http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 431#p79431


Sea Turtles

Family: Dermochelyidae
Dermochelys coriacea Leatherback Turtle http://www.sagr.co.za/forum/viewtopic.p ... 99#p192999

Re: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptions

Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:49 pm

Angulate tortoise Chersina angulata (Geelpensskilpad, Rooipensskilpad, Bontskilpad)
Family: Testudinidae

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Image Namaqualand

Image © nan

Description
A medium sized tortoise; males are larger than females; tortoises grow larger in the western regions than in the eastern part.
The shell is elongate, more or less convex and with steep sides, and without hinges. There are 5 vertebrals, 4 costals, 10-13 (usually 11) marginals, a single supracaudal and a narrow nuchal. A distinguishing feature is the large, undivided gular, the frontmost part of its lower shell, under the head, which is used by the male as a weapon to ram and overturn other males when fighting for dominance. The anterior and posterior marginals of adult males are flared, giving them a characteristic "violin" shape; mature males also have a pronounced plastral concavity, a more elongate gular, a rounded and incurved supracaudal, and a longer tail. The front feet have five toes, the hind feet four toes, and there are no buttock tubercles or terminal spine on the tail. Coloration is relatively constant. Typically the marginals are horn-coloured, each with a distinct black triangle. The vertebrals and costals are black edged with light centres and asmall black central spot. The plastron is usually horn-coloured with a dark mahogany brown centre that may be streaked and disrupted along the midline in old adults.

Size
Male carapace length: up to 27.2 cm
Female carapace length: up to 21.6 cm
Male weight: up to 2.1 kg
Female weight: up to 1.8 kg

Geographical distribution
The angulate tortoise is endemic to South Africa and southwestern Namibia. It is particularly abundant in parts of the Cape Floristic Region. Found throughout the Cape coastal regions from East Londonin the east, around to the Orange River Mouth, and extendingperipherally into southern Namibia. Isolated records from Luderitz and southern Namibia may represent isolated, relict populations, or escaped captive specimens. A population in the Karoo National Park and adjacent farms at the base of the Nuweveldberg may similarly represent a relict population or one derived from early escapees.

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Habitat
The angulate tortoise inhabits a wide range of habitats, including Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, and Albany Thicket.

Behaviour
Activity patterns depend largely on temperature: on cool or wet days and in winter, the angulate tortoise is most active during the middle of the day, while in spring and summer it is less active during this hottest part of the day.
Chersina is unusual among tortoises in that males grow larger than females. Mature males actively enter into combat with other males, despite having overlapping territories. Large tortoises entering a male's range are visually inspected, and, if they are adult males, are often attacked. Attack takes the form of active butting and attempts to overturn the opponent using the greatly enlarged gular. Combat lasts for 10-30 minutes, and often terminates when the defeated male retreats quickly to cover. Overturned males usually right themselves and then retreat.

Diet
The angulate tortoise feeds on a variety of angiosperms (flowering plants), as well as mosses, mushrooms, insects, snail shells and animal faeces.

Predators
Predators on juveniles and subadults include viverrids, jackals, the rock monitor, and various birds, including crows, kelp gulls, and black eagles. Adults are usually immune to predation.

Reproduction
Mating occurs throughout the year, dependent upon temperature, but is most common between September and April.
Egg laying occurs throughout the year, depending as much on rainfall as temperature. Females lay a single egg (very exceptionally two) in a shallow pit dug in sandy soil, in a well drained, sunny position. As suitable sites may be limited, females move to them specifically for egg laying. The eggs are oval and hardshelled (34-43 mm x 24-35 mm, 25-30 g). The interval between egg laying varies from 1-6 months. Adult females lay from 6-7 times in a year. Egg laying occurs following rain. Females may delay oviposition until rain occurs. Depending upon the frequency of rainfall, a variable number of females may begin to nest. Construction of the egg pit and egg laying takes several hours. Incubation periods range from 94-198 days depending upon incubation temperature (i.e., whether the egg is laid in winter or summer). Egg shells crack 6-7 days before hatchlings emerge. Hatchlings are rounded in shape, measuring approximately 30-39 mm in length and weighing 12-18 g.

Status
Listed on Appendix II of CITES.

Links: William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa; Chersina angulata. From IUCN Compilation Project; SANBI

Re: AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptio

Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:37 pm

Serrated Hinged Terrapin Pelusios sinuatus (Skanierdopwaterskilpad)
Family: Pelomedusidae

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Image © leachy

Image © leachy

Image © leachy

Image © leachy

Description
The Serrated Hinged Terrapin is the largest hinged terrapin, with females being larger than males. The males can be identified by their longer tail. The carapace (the upper part of the shell) of the females can be as long as 400mm and weigh as much as 7kg. The males are smaller with a carapace that does not usually exceed 350mm and 4.5kg. The carapace on both the male and female is elongated with the back wider than the front. It has a high dome and marked serrated posterior marginal shields. These make the back edge of the shell look much like a pie crust edge or scalloped trim. The colour of the carapace in adults is usually dark grey or black and light or orangeish brown in the juveniles. There may be small dark patches on the carapace. The plastron (the lower part of the shell) is hinged and can be completely closed. This hinge and the serrations of the carapace give this terrapin its name. The skin of the neck and limbs is pale olive-grey. The head is blackish-brown with yellow or brown vermiculations. The snout is rather pointed with a pair of barbels on the throat.

Image Plastron © leachy

Distribution
Tropical East Africa, along Zambezi River to Victoria Falls, and south to Zululand.

Habitat
Permanent inland rivers and waterholes in the lowveld.

Behaviour
The Serrated Hinged Terrapin is a side-necked terrapin, which means that it does not pull it's head straight back into its shell, rather it turns its head to one side and tucks it into its shell. Often seen sunbathing on rocks or logs, or on the backs of hippos. They can close up their shell which protects their head, legs and tail. They can also bite with their horny jaws or scratch with their sharps close as a defense.They secrete a very foul smelling odour when threatened.

Diet
Primarily carnivorous, but will feed on fruit if it falls in the water or aquatic plants. Their usual diet consists of fish, insects, snails and amphibians, and they regularly scavenge on carcasses in the water.

Predators
Young terrapins are prey for storks, herons and other birds as well as monitor lizards. Their main predator is the Nile crocodile. They fall prey to crocodiles in large numbers in the Kruger National Park Area. Monitor lizards will follow females during nesting season and dig up and eat the terrapin's eggs

Reproduction
The female lays 7 - 25 eggs, up to 500 m from the nearest water, in October - January. In the wild, hatchlings appear in March - April.

Links: William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa

Re: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptions

Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:12 am

Common Tent Tortoise Psammobates tentorius
Family: Testudinidae

Image Tankwa Karoo

Image Psammobates tentorius ssp. tentorius

Description
This is a small tortoise that comes in an amazing range of shapes and colours.
Dependent upon subspecies, the carapace is domed or flat, with or without raised scutes ("knoppies"), and is unhinged. A nuchal is present, typically broader than it is long.
There are five vertebrals, four costals, 11 marginals, with those on the bridge being almost square in contrast to P. geometricus, and a single supracaudal. The paired gulars are longer than broad, the humerals are separated from or in narrow contact with the axillaries (2-3, rarely 1), and the single inguinal is usually in contact with the femorals.
The forelimbs are covered in large, abutting scales and have five claws. Buttock tubercles are typically present but may be reduced in western races, the tail lacks a terminal spine. The beak is usually hooked.
Coloration is varied (see subspecies descriptions for the most typical patterns). In most populations, a well developed rayed pattern occurs on the carapace scutes, but never on the plastron, in contrast to other Psammobates.

Size
Females grow much larger than males (maximum length: female 145mm, maximum weight 400g; males 100mm, 170g)

Taxonomy
Numerous species and subspecies have been described.

P. tentorius tentorius (Karoo Tent Tortoise) has a plastron with a solid, sharply defined dark brown or black central blotch, which has only very reduced areas of lighter pigmentary intrusion. The domed carapace has a geometric pattern of thin yellow rays on a black background with well-developed "knoppies." It attains a maximum length of 125mm.

P. tentorius trimeni (Namaqualand Tent Tortoise) has a bright yellow or light brown plastron with the central figure sharply defined, but fragmented by lighter rays or broad pigmentary intrusions. The carapace is coloured with a geometric pattern of wide yellow to orange rays on a black background. The striking colour pattern of this species is typically starred or rayed. The number and size of the rays from the central point of each shield vary, and like the other starred tortoises, the colour ranges from light to darker yellow on a dark-brown to black background. In this species, however, there are bright orange-red infusions at the bottom of each ray that makes it very attractive indeed. The straw-coloured underside of the shell or plastron has a central black region. The domed carapace has well developed "knoppies" and reaches a maximum length 145mm.

P.tentorius verroxii (Bushmanland Tent Tortoise) often has a uniformly pale yellow or light brown plastron, occasionally with an indistinct dark central blotch. The carapace is often uniform russet or dark brown, but usually faintly patterned with darker brown rays. The colour pattern is varied, but it is primarily a starred or rayed pattern. The number and size of the rays from the central point of each shield vary, and the rays are generally light to darker yellow on a dark-brown to black background."Knoppies" are rarely developed, the shell often low, smooth and rounded. The maximum length is 145mm.

Geographic distribution
This species is found throughout the central karroid regions of the Cape, from Grahamstown in the east and Matjiesfontein in the west. In the north their range skirts the sandveld of the Kalahari and extends into southern Namibia. There are large intergrade zones between the recognized supspecies.
Main ranges of the subspecies:
P. t. tentorius occurs in the southern and eastern Karoo, from Grahamstown to Matjiesfontein, including the Little Karoo, intergrading with P. t. verroxii in the central Karoo.
P. t. verroxii occurs in the northern Karoo, Bushmanland and north of the Orange River into the escarpment grasslands of southern Namibia, intergrading with P. t. trimeni in Bushmanland, and along the escarpment edge of southern Namibia.
P. t. trimeni occurs in Little Namaqualand along the northern Cape coastal region, from Lambert's Bay in the south, extending into the Richterveld and across the Orange River into the lowlands of southern Namibia. Inland it reaches the Namaqualand/Bushmanland boundary East of Springbok and may be found in the Knersvlakte.

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Habitat
Habitat is varied, usually arid karroid semidesert, with low scrub, shallow, rocky soils, and an annual rainfall of less than 100 mm with hot summers and cold winters.
P. t. trimeni, inhabits succulent karoo, characterized by sandy soils, numerous small succulent plants (particularly Crassulacae and Mesembryanthemacae), and low winter rainfall.
P. t. verroxii inhabits a transitional region between semidesert and rocky grassland and sandveld, with slightly higher rainfall.

Behaviour
During droughts they burrow into sandy soil at the base of low scrub, emerging after rains. They are active in the cooler parts of the day (early morning and evening), when they feed on small succulents and annuals. They drink by raising the rear of the shell during rainshowers, sipping the water that runs down the shell and forelimbs.

Diet
They depend on a very specialised diet including assorted Karoo bushes, mesem-bryanthemums, annuals and other South African succulents.

Predators
Predators include small carnivores, rock monitors, eagles, crows, and even ostriches. In the Little Karoo, the Pale chanting goshawk appears to be a major predator on juvenile Psammobates.

Reproduction
Copulation occurs in spring (October-November) and nesting has been reported from September through January. Clutch size is very small; 1-3 eggs. They hatch after about 220 days, and hatchlings have been recorded in May, measuring 25-30mm in length.

Links: William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa

Re: AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptio

Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:06 pm

Marsh Terrapin Pelomedusa galeata formerly Pelomedusa subrufa (Moeras skilpad)
Family: Pelomedusidae

Image Rondevlei Nature Reserve

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The smallest terrapin I ever saw :-) (camera 10x7 cm)

Image Kgalagadi

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Image Addo NP

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Description
It doesn't have a hinged plastron (lower shell). It is diffucult to differentiate between a Marsh Terrapin and Hinged Terrapin. Both have 5 vertebral scutes and four pairs of coastal scutes and 11 marginal scutes on each side. Both lack a nuchal scute. The hard shell very flat and circular or oval in shape. By contrast, the shell of the hinged terrapins is thicker, more domed and more elongated. The carapace is dark brwon, gray or black, with or without vermiculations. Head colouration can be a help. Pelomedusa has a more or less dark-light seperation of the upper parts of the head and neck in contrary to the lower parts. The head is broad, the snout short, the neck is long and muscular, often withdrawn sideways.It has two soft tentacles on chin.

Diagnosis: Large-sized, often dark-coloured helmeted terrapins with an exceptional maximum straight carapacial length of 32.5 cm. However, the normal shell length of adult terrapins is around 26 cm. Pectoral scutes always with broad or very broad contact at plastral midseam. In approximately 50% of all terrapins two small temporal scales present on each side of head, the others having one large undivided temporal scale. Two small barbels below chin. Soft parts dorsally darker than ventrally. Carapace
and plastron of adults often mainly or entirely dark. However, in the western and northwestern parts of the range adults may be light-coloured with mainly or entirely yellow plastra.

Size
Typical carapace length is 200-300 mm.

Taxonomic note
The helmeted terrapin was thought to represent a pan-African species, but after taxonomic revision of the Pelomedusa complex, have identified ten deeply divergent genetic lineages of helmeted terrapins and described them as different species. In South Africa, Pelomedusa galeata is widespread and Pelomedusa subrufa sensu strictu occurs only in Limpopo.

Geographic Distribution
South Africa (Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Northern Cape, Western Cape

Habitat
It occurs in a wide range of habitats: fynbos, grassland, subtropical savanna, semi-desert regions. It will move great distances and occupy seasonal pans and marshes. In the dry season it leaves the pans and burrows underground to aestivate. But it inhabits both temporary and permanent bodies of water.

Diet
The African helmeted turtle is omnivorous and will eat almost anything. Some of the main items in its diet are amphibians, (adults and larvae), insects, small crustaceans, fish, crabs, ticks, earthworms, and snails. They may also feed on carrion. The fine claws on its feet help it tear its prey apart. Groups of these turtles have been observed capturing and drowning larger prey such as doves when they come to drink, the commotion caused by these group attacks are often mistaken for crocodiles.

Reproduction
Nesting takes places after the onset of the wet saison, A nest is dug to a depth of approximately 15 cm and 10-30 eggs are laid in a sandbank. The eggs hatch in 75– 90 days.

Links: William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa; Download PDF - IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtles Species File; http://biotaxa.org/Zootaxa/article/viewFile/zootaxa.3795.5.2/8380

Re: AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptio

Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:01 pm

Speke's Hinged-back Tortoise Kinixys spekii Skarnierdop landskilpad
Family: Testudinidae

Image
Kruger National Park

Image © BluTuna

Image © Twigga
Kruger National Park, Pretoriuskop area

Image © Heksie
Kruger National Park

Description
A medium-sized tortoise with a smooth, depressed elongated carapace.
The shields are typical with 11 marginals but occasionally 10-14 may be present. The nuchal is normally present. The rear of the shell has a relatively smooth profile when viewed from underneath. When viewed from the side the shell slopes down rapidly from the edge of the last vertebral shield. The hinge in this species is very well developed and easily noticeable on the carapace. The carapace has a weak, disrupted medial keel, and posterior marginals that are neither strongly serrated nor reverted.
Adult colouration is highly caried from a beautiful patterned/rayed specimen to a plain dull brown. Males and females can often be of different colour patterns. The males are uniformly brown but the females are more colourful with dark patches or rings with a yellow background on the shield.
The head is usually a light uniform brown and the species has a uni-cuspid beak.
The back of the females' carapace slopes down more rapidly than the male when viewed from the side. The males' tail is long and extends to the 2nd last marginal, but has been known to reach the seam between the 2nd & 3rd last marginal. A females’ tail will rarely extend beyond the seam of the supracaudal and last marginal.
Speke's hinged tortoise can close the hinged rear part of its carapace to protect its hindquarters.
No hinge is present in hatchlings or juveniles. Juvenile colouration is normally a dark centre to the each shield. Light brown to yellow brown and dark brown to black alternating rings surround the centre. The plastron is usually dark brown to black. The shell of juveniles has a zonary pattern with concentric light and dark zones. These may persist in adult males while the dark zones break up in adult females.

This tortoise was considered a subspecies of Kinixys belliana until fairly recently.

Size
It is a relatively small species. Length 14-16cm. Females are slightly bigger than males. Weight 820g to 1.5kg.

Geographic distribution
Mainly found in savannas of central and Eastern Africa, through Zimbabwe to the north-east of Namibia,(typically in the Kavango and Caprivi regions) and to North Western and Northern provinces of South Africa, and along the lowveld and Mozambique coastal plain and Zululand as far south as Swaziland.

Habitat
They are mainly associated with a riparian vegetation of a sandy tree savannah and woodland vegetation or dry bush with rocky areas.

Behaviour
They tend to be more active in the rainy season, and will aestivate through the dry winter in a burrow or termite mound.They are on the move for most of the day.

Diet
A varied diet of grasses and shrubs, but they are also known to eat millipedes, beetles, ants and snails.

Reproduction
Clutch size varies from 2-6 eggs, with multiple births common during the summer months. Incubation periods are between 313 and 365 days. Juveniles are usually hatched during the rainy season.

Links: William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa

Re: AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Photos & Descript

Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:48 pm

Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) (still classified by some as Geochelone pardalis)
Order: Testudines. Family: Testudinidae

Leopard tortoises are the fourth largest species of tortoise, after the African spurred tortoise, the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra giant tortoise. It is the only member of the genus Stigmochelys, but in the past it was commonly placed in Geochelone instead.

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Imfolozi

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Young tortoise - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

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Older tortoise showing more uniform grey-brown coloration. Kruger National Park

Description
Length: Female up to 750 mm; Male 300 - 450 mm
The skin and background color is cream to yellow, and the carapace is marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes or stripes. Each individual is marked uniquely. Old adults are often uniform grey-brown. They may exceed 700 mm in length and 40 kg in weight. The carapace is domed and not hinged, with scutes only faintly raised. The gulars are paired and are as long as they are wide. The nuchal is absent. There are 10 - 12 marginals, with those on the rear edge usually serrated and often upturned. The beak is sometimes hooked, is unicuspid and often serrated.

Subspecies: Western Leopard Tortoise [Stigmochelys pardalis pardalis] and Eastern Leopard Tortoise [Stigmochelys pardalis babcocki]

Distribution
This is the most widely distributed tortoise in Southern Africa. It has a wide distribution in sub-Saharan Africa, but is absent from all of West Africa and most of Central Africa. Historically absent from South Western Cape and from former Transkei, adjacent Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Lesotho, but now introduced in some areas.

Habitat
This chelonian is a grazing species of tortoise that favors semi-arid, thorny to grassland habitats, although some leopard tortoises have been found in rainier areas. In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or anteater holes. Leopard tortoises do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs. They occupy a large home range (1 - 3 sq. ams) and have been known to undertake long return journeys (5 - 10 kms) when translocated from their territories.

Diet
Not surprisingly, given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles. They also gnaw bones and hyaena faeces to obtain calcium for shell growth and egg shell development.

Breeding
A very long-lived animal, the leopard tortoise reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 12 and 15 years. Their life span is from 50 to 100 years. Females usually lay 6 - 15 large, hard-shelled eggs. The hole, in which she lays her eggs, is refilled and the female may tamp down the soil by lifting and dropping her shell regularly on the spot. Incubation takes 10 - 15 months, depending on the temperature. Hatchlings weigh 23 - 50 g and measure 40 - 50 mm.

Predators
Many predators including rock monitors, storks, crows and small carnivores feed on hatchlings and juveniles. Adults are relatively immune to predation except by man.

Links: SANBI

Image © JustN@ture
Kruger National Park

Re: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptions

Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:20 pm

Leatherback Turtle Dermochelys coriacea (Leerrug-seeskilpad)
Family: Dermochelyidae

Image © Kesheshe
Namibia

Description
A very distinctive species with its spindle-shaped body and leathery, unscaled, keeled carapace (the protective covering on top of the animal). It has seven pronounced ridges in its back and five on the underside. Its overall colour is black and is the only sea turtle that does not have a hard top shell. It is protected instead by a thick leathery skin on its back with seven long ridges which gives the turtle its name. The flippers are black with scattered white spots. The plastron and lower surfaces are white.
Leatherbacks rely on a unique suite of adaptations including large body size, changes in activity and metabolic rate, peripheral insulation (i.e. fat), and adjustments in blood flow to maintain stable core body temperatures in varying water temperatures from temperate to tropical latitudes.

Size
Adult: Length 140-160 cm; mass 300-1000 kg
Hatchling: Length approximately 50 mm; mass 40-50 g
It is the largest species of chelonian (the group containing the turtles, terrapins and tortoises) in the world and one of the largest living reptiles; it is exceeded in size only by a few large species of crocodile. The largest individual yet recorded was 2.56 m long and weighed 916 kg.

Geographical distribution
Leatherbacks are distributed circumglobally, present in all the world’s oceans except Arctic and Antarctic; nesting areas are in the tropics, non-nesting range extends to sub-polar regions.
The Southwest Indian subpopulation nests along the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa and Mozambique, and marine habitats extend through the Agulhas Current around the Cape of Good Hope in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Despite some areas of overlap in distribution with the Southeast Atlantic subpopulation, the Southwest Atlantic subpopulation is genetically distinct from this and all other Leatherback subpopulations.

Habitat
The Leatherback turtle is pelagic, living in the open sea, and is found in oceans worldwide. Although living in the surface waters most of the time, these turtles are also able to dive to depths of over 900 m. Unlike most other reptiles, it is endothermic (warm-blooded), thus being able to generate internal heat to keep its body warmer than its surroundings. This capability, along with the insulation provided by a protective thick and oily skin, has resulted in the Leatherback turtle being superbly adapted to cold water conditions. As a result, it occurs not only in tropical and subtropical seas but also penetrates into the cool seas such as into the Gulf of Alaska and around Scandinavia.

Behaviour
Leatherbacks are mostly solitary. They migrate great distances between nesting and feeding grounds. They seem to locate locations that have high concentrations of jellyfish, and feed near the surface or dive to find the highest concentrations of prey.

Diet
The Leatherback turtle feeds mainly on jellyfish but also on other surface-dwelling soft-bodied invertebrates, including pyrosomes and cephalopods. Like all sea turtles, the leatherback has no teeth, instead it uses it's strong, sharp beak to catch its food.

Predators
Eggs are eaten by a variety of animals including monitor lizards, monkeys and mongooses.
Hatchlings are exposed to extensive predation in their journey from the nest into the sea, being attacked by various predatory birds and mammals. Once in the water, they are caught by seabirds (e.g. frigatebirds, gulls) and by carnivorous fishes and squids.
In the sea, both juveniles and adults are attacked by sharks and adults can be eaten by killer whales (Orcinus orca).

Reproduction
A female comes ashore on beaches at night, digs a hole in the sand above the high water mark, lays 46-160 eggs, covers them up and returns to the sea.
She lays 4-7 clutches in a season, 9-10 days separating each clutch.
In South Africa, leatherbacks breed along the coast in northern KwaZulu-Natal and egg laying is from late October to late January.
After an incubation period of 50-78 days (depending on temperature and humidity), the hatchlings emerge, dig out of their nest, and make their way down to the sea. Hatching takes place from late December to early April in South Africa.
They reach sexual maturity after 13-14 years, by which time their carapace length has reached about 1.25 m. They can live for 30 years or more.

Status
The leatherback turtle is regarded as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and is Scheduled under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Southwest Indian Ocean subpopulation is listed as CR (Critically Endangered).

Re: AW Reptile Book: Turtles & Tortoises - Pics & Descriptio

Sun Jan 04, 2015 3:12 pm

Common Padlooper, Parrot-beaked Tortoise Homopus areolatus (Gewone Padlopertjie)
Family: Testudinidae

Image © PJL
Addo Elephant National Park

Short Characteristic of the Genus Homopus (Padlopers)
The genus Homopus consists of five small, relatively flattened tortoise species (maximum shell length 10-17 cm), including the world's smallest tortoise. Males are smaller than females and have concave plastrons in some species. Homopus derives its name from the fact that the front and hind limbs both have four claws in two of the species. The three other taxa have five claws on the front limbs. The genus is endemic to southern Africa, with four species occurring in South Africa and one in Namibia.

Description
A small, rather flat tortoise. Its shell usually has varied colouration, ranging between olive-green and brown. Green shell with black margins in female, orange in male. The shields of the carapace are flat, with large raised areolae, and a thin black edging. Dorsal scutes have depressed centres.
Like its larger relative, the Greater padloper, and unlike the other padlopers, it has only four toes on its front feet, as well as its hind feet. It has a sharp, distinctly hooked beak and the nostrils open high on the snout. Lacks buttock tubercles.
The males are smaller than the females, and can be distinguished by their slightly longer tails and their distinctive heads. Males have larger heads, with a larger beak and a more pointy snout. The noses of dominant males also become bright orange or red in the breeding season.
In colour, males are frequently uniformly orange to light brown (compared to the deeper olive brown of the females). Males also have more lightly coloured bellies, though they do no exhibit the plastral concavity that many other tortoise species do.

Size
The average length is 110 mm, though females are larger than males. Their adult weight ranges from 140-300 g.

Geographic distribution
Endemic to South Africa, it is found specifically in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape Provinces, from Clanwilliam and the Cederberg in the West in a broad coastal band eastwards through the southern Cape and up to East London. Inland populations have been recorded. In the Western Cape, there are inland populations at Sutherland and Nieuwoudtville. In the Eastern Cape, their range extends inland at one point, as far as Cradock.

Image

Habitat
it favours coastal lowlands, especially along the south coast, in fynbos, strandveld, albany thicket and valley bushveld.

Behaviour
Due to its tiny size, this tortoise is heavily preyed on by crows, ostriches, jackals, baboons, dogs, and a wide range of other predators. Consequently, it spends most of its time hiding under rocks, foliage, and other cover.

Diet
Plants.

Reproduction
In early summer, it lays a clutch of 2-4 eggs in a small hole in sandy soil, the eggs hatch 150-320 days later, usually on a misty, overcast day. The young measure 30 mm.

Links:
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Bill Branch, William R. Branch
William R. Branch: Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa
SCARCE
The Conservation Biology of Tortoises. Edited by Ian R. Swingland and Michael W. Klemens. IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group