Ever looked at the tortoise and wondered, “I wish I had more than four legs, less than a shell, and the ability to breathe air?”If the answer is yes, continue reading. Greek tortoises are fast-becoming-rare and highly endangered. Here some facts.
These slow-moving reptiles rely on their ability to breathe through their stomachs and have a shallow reproduction rate. Phew! You can now relax knowing that if you ever plan on keeping one as a pet (or, even worse, selling them), you should double-check your facts first.
Greek tortoises are among the most popular pet reptiles in the world. They’re known for their calm, docile nature and long lifespan. Although they may seem like very basic reptiles, Greek tortoises carry a lot of interesting facts that many people don’t know. Here are 15 Greek tortoise facts that you probably didn’t know:
1. Greek Tortoises Are Domesticated Animals
The pet trade in tortoises has an intimate link with the wild population in most parts of the world. In comparison, there have been numerous accounts of wild-born Greek tortoises being captured and reared in captivity, most of which are pets. The reason behind this is that it keeps them relatively safe from extinction in the wild due to the presence of abundant wild populations.
Additionally, most wild-born Greek tortoises are sold or given to collectors as pets. However, there are several large Greek islands where breeding and releasing captive-bred tortoises is widespread.
2. Have Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses
While these reptiles have various therapeutic benefits, the Greek tortoise’s most practical use may be in the form of natural cosmetic ingredients. One such ingredient is zeaxanthin, which has unique antioxidant properties.
The presence of zeaxanthin in turtles and tortoises is due to the reptiles eating algae, seaweed, and other rich bottom-dwelling species other animals do not eat. This antioxidant-rich diet may help maintain these reptiles’ healthy skin, hair, and eyes.
3. They Mainly Live in Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia
We can find the Greek tortoise in southern Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia. Along the Black Sea coast in the Caucasus (extending from Russian Anapa to Abkhazia Sukhumi) and in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, we can also find many of them.
Moreover, they are common in semi-arid scrub, brush, grassland, and areas in the Atlas Mountains, rocky and marshland borders, brushy hillsides, coastal dunes, and pine woods in North Africa.
In the Middle East, the Greek tortoise populations live on barren hillsides, wastelands, and dry open steppes with vegetation ranging from dry woodlands to scrub thorns to sea dune grasses.
4. Oasis of Green: Best Place to Keep a Greek Tortoise
The perfect location for any pet would be an oasis of green. In the ferociously hot and humid inter-seasonal Greek environment, where is better to escape than a pond, lake, or vast, slow-moving freshwater river?
These waters offer the best conditions for maintaining a healthy, well-fed Greek tortoise. Nonetheless, even in the tropics, healthy, full-grown Greek tortoises can reach a weight of up to 13 lbs. To prevent potential health risks, it’s a good idea to control your pet’s weight.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can do this. One of them, of course, is to feed it. A healthy, well-balanced diet should contain a balanced amount of protein to support strong, healthy shells and a reasonable amount of fat to ease the tortoise’s weight loss.
5. Greek Tortoises Live in Geoparks
The demand for these exotic animals has led to a booming tourist industry. The problem is that humans often oppress and mistreat zoo inhabitants, feed, and mishandle these animals.
Because of this, captive-bred tortoises are particularly susceptible to disease and malnutrition. In addition, because of the danger of tick-borne diseases and the need to prevent escapes, most European zoos keep baby tortoises in enclosed environments, often connected to outdoor areas. Commercial suppliers sell these outside enclosures.
6. The Longest-living Tortoises
One of the most amazing things about Greek tortoises is that they can live for almost 100 years. These reptiles have the potential to live for up to 125 years.
According to some studies, they can live for up to 200 years. Those assertions, however, have not been validated. The oldest living Greek tortoise was known as Timothy. However, she died in 2004 after living for 160 years. Furthermore, the tortoise was christened after a tortoise owned by Gilbert White.
Interestingly, during the initial bombardment of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, Timothy was aboard the HMS Queen. She survived the battle and visited a few more ships before retiring from the Navy in 1892.
7. They Have an Average Size
The average length of a Greek tortoise is between 5 and 8 inches. When fully grown, they can reach weights of up to 13 lbs.
However, the males differ from the females in five different ways.
- Males are often smaller.
- Their tails are long and taper to a tip more uniformly than females’, and the urogenital orifice is further from the base of the seat.
- Males have a slightly curved underside, but females have a flat shell.
- The back of a male’s carapace is more comprehensive than long. Finally,
- The rear plates of the carapace frequently flange outward.
8. Prefers Moderate Humidity Levels
The Greek tortoise requires a healthy environment with moderate levels of humidity. Like every other animal, you must maintain a healthy balance of too much and too little moisture in their atmosphere.
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9. The Shell Has Thirteen Main Plates
The shell of a Greek tortoise has a dozen different plates. These are the thinnest bones in the body and are responsible for giving the cover its softness, shape, and structure. Instead, the plates are linked at the front and rounded at the back. As a result, the back is thicker than the front, with flat sides.
10. The Tortoise Courts Before Mating
Mating season for the Greek tortoise is during the cooler months of the year, usually November and December. Males and females meet within 50 miles of their breeding grounds during this time.
However, When they desire to mate, they exclusively seek the companionship of other tortoises. After a brief encounter, they part, and the females lay their eggs, which they then abandon and head off to live solitary for the remainder of the year. At that moment, they are almost undetectable in the landscape.
11. There are Different Subspecies of the Greek Tortoise
As mentioned earlier, the greek tortoise spreads across three continents. That is, Africa, Europe, and Asia. As a result, the greek tortoise differs significantly with environment and terrain. Consequently, keeping track of them can be difficult, especially because new species are constantly being discovered. The known subspecies are:
- Armenian tortoise
- Tunisian tortoise
- T.g Buxtoni
- T.g. Terrestris
- T.g. Ibera
- T.g. Graeca
- T.g Whitei
12. They Can Survive in the Coldest Parts of the Earth
The Greek tortoise can survive the coldest parts of the earth, including parts that have never seen human-made heat. So while keeping a tortoise below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is not advisable, certain species can endure near-freezing temperatures.
The most extreme environment a species can exist in is its evolved environment. For example, if a tortoise originated on a lonely island, it would have practically limited chance of surviving in the wild.
13. They are Listed as Vulnerable/Endangered
For many years the public has sought the greek tortoise for its beauty through the pet trade. Therefore the IUCN (International Union For Conservation of Nature) has classified the Greek tortoise as a vulnerable species. However, the IUCN red list doesn’t provide the exact number of the Greek tortoise in the world.
14. Their Body Temperature Drops During Hibernation
While hibernating, the Greek tortoise’s body temperature drops as low as 10°Celsius. Therefore, this helps conserve energy and keeps the reptile’s metabolic rate at a lower level. Thus, this prevents the Greek tortoise from being able to gain weight when it comes out of hibernation.
In addition, while hibernating, the Greek tortoise’s blood flow slows down, which means less blood is moving through the body. Instead, it reduces the amount of heat lost through the tortoise’s skin and increases the amount of heat retained.
Once they begin to wake up, the Greek tortoise’s body temperature begins to increase. When it has warmed enough, they will then start a process known as “readjustment .” During this time, they can regain any weight they have lost over the winter months and begin to eat again.
Greek tortoises can go into a state of torpor when there is not enough food for them to eat. Their metabolic rate is shallow in this state, and they do not need to use as much energy. They will also seek out basking spots in the sun to help keep their body temperature up. In addition, they will also produce smaller amounts of urine as well as defecate and urinate less frequently. These all help to conserve energy.
15. Their Shells will Turn Darker and Develop Striations as They Age
As the Greek tortoise grows older (over 15 years old), its shells will turn darker and develop striations. The explanation is that the Greeks live in an environment with high UVB exposure.
In areas of high UVB radiation, the greeks can produce more vitamin D3, allowing them to use calcium more efficiently. As a result, there’s a rise in calcium absorption and deposition onto the shell. Furthermore, there was also a decrease in calcium excretion as the Greeks began to absorb it from their food.
The continuous UVB radiation causes changes in the shell’s structure and strength. However, the Greeks will be able to adjust to these changes and continue to grow and develop into maturity because of their genetic heritage and environment.
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