IUCN threat status:

Endangered (EN)

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Biology

Although not a particularly social animal, the Asian tortoise seems to have more complex vocalisations and other communication methods than other tortoises (2) (8). Males engage in vocal disputes and aggressive behaviour to discourage rivals from courting nearby females. The rather elaborate courtship involves head-bobbing and 'fixation' by the male, in which males fully extend their head and neck and keep it pointed towards the female as they move around (2). 'Trailing' is another courtship behaviour employed by the male prior to mounting, involving the male following very closely behind the female, and both males and females vocalise during courtship (2) (6). The Asian tortoise is unique among turtles and tortoises in building a nest on the surface of the ground, and in providing maternal protection of the eggs (9). For a few days before laying, the female gathers up leaves and debris into a mound on which to place her clutch (2). Unlike most tortoises, which use their hindlimbs to excavate nest sites, Asian tortoises use their forelimbs to 'backsweep' surface leaf-litter (2) (8). Reported clutch sizes in captivity range from 21 to 53 eggs, which the female then covers with vegetation and guards, frequently piling more vegetation on top. If the eggs are threatened by a potential predator, the female will first attempt to drive them away by pushing and biting, but if this fails, she then defends the eggs by sprawling her body over them (2). This behaviour normally lasts just a few days following egg-laying, although up to six weeks of nest-guarding has been recorded (6). No other turtle or tortoise exhibits this high level of parental care and protection. It is thought that this behaviour helps protects the eggs by distracting and confusing the predators, and that frequently adding material to the nest may also help conceal the scent of the eggs (2). The Asian tortoise is chiefly herbivorous, typically feeding on grasses, vegetables, leaves, seedlings, herbs, fruits and fungi, although invertebrates and amphibians have occasionally been recorded in the diet (2) (6).

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Source: ARKive

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