How Many Species Of Tortoises Are There?

An Aldabra giant tortoise on the beach in Aldabra.

Tortoises (Testudinidae) are a family of land reptiles which belongs to the suborder Cryptodira and order Testudines. Testudinidae is one of the fourteen extant families of the order Testudines. Tortoises are some of the world’s oldest reptiles which are protected from predators by their shells. The lower part of the tortoise’s shell is known as the plastron while the upper part is a carapace. The Testudinidae family has twelve genera with over 60 extant species.

The Biggest Tortoise Species

Currently, giant tortoises are found in two remote archipelagos; Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the biggest extant tortoise species with the most massive specimens weighing about 919 pounds. The female weighs about 399 pounds while the male has a maximum weight of about 699 pounds. They have a gray or dull brown bony shell. They have slumpy and large legs with hard scales and scaly, dry skin.

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

The Aldabra giant tortoise is also massive in size. They inhabit the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles. Aldabra Atoll is protected from human beings and is home to over 100,000 tortoises. These tortoises have tan or brown carapaces which are about 48 inches long and weighs over 550 pounds. They have stocky, scaled legs to support their heavy shells.

The Largest Mainland Tortoise

The African spurred tortoises are the third largest tortoise species on earth which inhabit the southernmost edges of the Sahara Desert. They are the largest species of mainland tortoises. It is the only living member of Centrochelys genus. They weigh about 231pounds and have a maximum length of about of 33 inches. The African spurred tortoises grow quickly and can reach a length of 10 inches within the first few years of their lives. The African spurred tortoises have a lifespan of about 70 years. They are found in the thorn shrublands, savannas and grasslands of numerous countries including Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, and Burkina Faso. They tend to dig burrows into the ground looking for areas with high moisture levels.

The Smallest Tortoise Species

Chersobius signatus also called speckled tortoise is the smallest tortoise species in the world. Speckled tortoise belongs to the genus Chersobius and its indigenous to South Africa. These tortoises weigh about 5.8 oz with the females being 3.9 inches long while the males have a carapace length of approximately 3.1 inches. They have a flattened orange-brown shell which has numerous black spots. They are distinguished from other members of genus Chesobius by the five toes of their front feet and their speckles.

Longest Living Tortoise Species

Tortoises are the world’s longest-living animals which have a lifespan of between 80 to 150 years. The Galapagos tortoises can live for over 150 years, but the longest living tortoise was an Aldabra giant tortoise called Adwaita which is believed to have lived for about 255 years.

Radiated tortoise

The Radiated tortoise is also one of the longest living tortoises with a recorded lifespan of about 188 years. The radiated tortoise is indigenous to southern Madagascar. They were introduced to Mauritius and the Reunion Island. The radiated tortoise weighs approximately 35 pounds and has a maximum length of over 16 inches. It is one of the most beautiful tortoises on earth with yellow heads, feet, and legs. The radiated tortoises have some small black patches on their heads. The upper parts of their shells have a few brilliant yellow lines which radiate from the middle of each plate of the carapace. The male radiated tortoises have longer tails than the females.


More in World Facts