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Studies on the growth, structure and abundance of the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, Tesudo graeca in field populations

Authors

  • M. R. K. Lambert

    1. c/o British Herpetological Society, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London
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    • *Centre for Overseas Pest Research, College House, Wrights Lane, London.


Abstract

The blackness and physical appearance of Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises (Testudo graeca L.) are recorded in field populations. The inter-relationships between carapace and plastron length, fourth vertebral scute width and other morphometric characters are related to growth. The rear fontanelle is larger in males and the plastron length correspondingly smaller. The relationship between carapace length (y) in mm and body mass (x) in g is strongly allometric and given by y= 16.63 x0–34. The maximum carapace lengths recorded for male and female T. graeca graeca L. in NW. Africa are 151 and 198 mm, and for larger T. graeca ibera Pallas in W. Turkey and NE. Greece 208 and 218 mm, respectively. The growth annuli of epidermal scutes are deposited yearly until external growth ceases. The number is used to assess the age of wild animals. Tortoises can be full-grown by 19 years but some, especially slower growing ones, deposit further annuli. The biggest mean growth increments occur up to 7 years with the largest in individuals over the 5–12 year period. The proportion of immature tortoises, adult sex ratios, size and body mass structure, age distribution, annual recruitment and survivorship until full-grown, and abundance (sighting frequency) are compared in northern and southern range populations of NW. African T. g. graeca and S. Anatolian and SE. European (Thrace and Macedonia) ones of T. g. ibera. These are discussed in relation to other tortoise species.

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