The Egyptian Tortoise: its natural history, its captive care, its beauty, its lore. . .
Golden beauties of the desert
kleinmanni home | golden beauties | desert life | climate's role | captive needs | unique diet | Captive Habitat 1: basics | Captive Habitat 2: habitat development | Breeding | hatchling care | when something goes wrong | natural and un-natural history | All in the family | captive behaviors | tortoise links | references

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FOUR AND FIVE YEAR OLDS GRAZING ON THE LAWN

THE DISTINGUISHING MARKS OF TESTUDO KLEINMANNI

Testudo kleinmanni are among the easiest of the Mediterranean tortoises to identify on sight. They are typically described as a pale, dull, yellowish tortoise, with a high-domed carapace with dark brown or black marks on the front and sides of each scute. As the animal ages, this darker keratin often mellows to a lighter shade, and the carapace can range from nearly gray to ivory to an almost golden color. As the kleinmanni in my collection come to maturity, more and more of that rich golden color begins to appear. Males reach a maximum of 3 1/2 to 4 in. long. Females are somewhat larger, often growing to a 5 in. straight carapace length (SCL) measurement.

In the photograph below, one can get a sense of the comparative sizes of kleinmanni. On the left is a four year-old female, expected to grow about another inch in length. In the center is a five year-old male who at 4+ inches has already reached his full adult size. On the right are two hatchlings of vastly different sizes, each six months old. The grid these animals are on is 1 in. squares.

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(L) 4 YEAR-OLD FEMALE; (C) 5 YEAR-OLD MALE; (R) 6 MONTH OLD HATCHLINGS

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THE TELLTALE CHEVRONS THAT MARK THE PLASTRON

Adult female kleinmanni
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Classic chevrons on the abdominal scutes
The uniquely configured chevrons
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appear even on the hatchling
Unique shadow chevrons
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appear on this infant tortoise
In addition to their miniature size and distinctive carapace coloration, they are marked quite clearly on the abdominal scutes of their straw to ivory colored plastrons by two dark chevrons in the keratin, each pointing to the animal's hind quarters. T. kleinmanni is the only tortoise of the Testudo genus to bear markings of quite this unique configuration. They are present even on the hatchlings. With age, these chevrons lengthen as the animal grows and the keratin bed of the plastron grows with it.

THE PLASTRAL KINESIS

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KLEINMANNI PLASTRON
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Drawing by Fred Erwin

The last third of the Testudo kleinmanni plastron (the posterior four scutes -- the femoral and anal scutes) form a moveable plastral kinesis that is retained into adulthood. This hind panel on the plastron allows the animal to withdraw its hind legs and pull the kinesis up, providing a minimal protection for its hindquarters after it has dug a scrape in the substrate at the base of a bush or clump of grass. The tortoise can also drop the plastron to provide more range of motion and posture for the hindquarters. This allows the females of such a small species more flexibility in egg laying. The "hinge" to this small panel lies between the abdominal and femoral scutes of the plastron, marked in red on the drawing (above left).

In the photo to the upper right, this sub-adult male has maximized his basking surface by dropping his kinesis, splaying his legs directly to the sides, and extending his tail out from under cover of the carapace. NOTE: Veterinarians unfamiliar with the species have been known to diagnose incomplete calcification of the plastron when encountering this feature for the first time. One vet actually recommended that I splint my animals' plastrons and increase their calcium until the hinge solidified. The moral of the story: know your animal, and find a veterinarian to work with who trusts your knowledge.

GENDER ID: FEMALE
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Note the narrow angle of the anal scutes, the shorter tail, and the more puckered cloacal vent

GENDER ID: MALE
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Note the wide angle of the anal scutes, the long, wide tail, and the slit defining the cloacal vent

GENDER DIFFERENCES AND IDENTIFICATION

Identifying the gender of a Testudo kleinmanni tortoise is not generally possible until late in the second or early third year of life. Gender in most tortoise species is not determined by chromosomes, as in mammals, but by the temperature of the tortoise egg at diapause, a particular point in the Incubation process.

Males of the kleinmanni species at maturity have a long tail, thick at the base with a long cloacal vent shaped as a slit in the underside of the tail. As in many tortoise species, the males generally carry their tails with great dignity held to one side, though I have seen my older males march around their enclosure wagging their tails behind them. Females, in addition to being distinguished by their larger size, can be identified by their relatively shorter tail, the cloacal vent on the underside of which is more tightly puckered and placed closer to the tortoise's shell under the edge of the carapace.

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"You can't trample infidelswhen you're a tortoise.I mean, all you could do isgive them a meaningful look."

-- Terry Pratchett, "Small Gods"

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All information and photos used in these pages is protected by copyright. Photos not taken by myself are credited; texts are fully noted and references included on the final page.  Use other than personal of the information or photos presented here requires my express written consent and / or that of the original author or photographer of the materials, and can be initiated by contacting me through this link. Any such use without such express written consents will be subject to legal action.

The Egyptian Tortoise: its natural history, its captive care, its beauty, its lore. . .
Fred L. Erwin, Jr., 2004 - 2005 C.E.