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Star Tortoise

Geochelone elegans

Family:

Testudinidae, the tortoise family.

Conservation Status:

IUCN Least Concern.

Distribution:

The Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.

Habitat:

Semi arid scrub forest.

Factoid:

Traveling south through India, star tortoises become gradually smaller, so one might expect to find really small tortoises in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), but that is not the case–the island is home to some of the largest star tortoises.

The smallest of the Geochelone tortoises, their heads are yellow to tan with black spots on the crown. Their carapaces are elongated with pyramidal scutes, each of which has yellow areolae with radiating yellow streaks extending to its margins, while their plastrons have dark radiating streaks on a light background. Their forelimbs are yellow to tan with large scales and their tails are yellow to tan. Females are much larger than males.

They are mainly herbivorous, feeding in the early morning and late afternoon, eating grass, vegetation, fallen fruit or flowers and occasionally snails and they like water more than any other species of this genus.

Juveniles are preyed on by birds, other reptiles and humans.

Breeding takes place during the rainy season (mid-June to mid-October). Males competing for females may attempt to turn each other on their backs. Females urinate on the sand while excavating nests, where 2 to 3 clutches per year of 3 to 6 eggs are laid. The eggshells are very hard, dotted with numerous widely spaced pores, and incubation takes about 100 days.

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