IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Description

With its unusually thin, flat, flexible shell, and habit of fleeing rather than withdrawing into its shell, the pancake tortoise is amongst the oddest of all chelonians (4). While the shell bones of most other tortoises are solid, the pancake tortoise has shell bones with many openings, making it lighter and more agile than other tortoises (5). Since this tortoise could easily be torn apart by predators, it must rely on its speed and flexibility to escape from dangerous situations (6). The flexibility of its shell allows the pancake tortoise to crawl into narrow rock crevices to avoid potential predators (2), thus exploiting an environment that no other tortoise is capable of using (7). The carapace is brown, frequently with a variable pattern of radiating dark lines on each scute, helping to camouflage the tortoise in its natural dry habitat (2) (5) (6). The plastron is pale yellow with dark brown seams and light yellow rays (6), and the head, limbs and tail are yellow-brown (2). Sadly, its bizarre, flattened, pancake-like profile makes this tortoise a sought after animal in zoological and private collections, leading to its over-exploitation in the wild (7).

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Source: ARKive

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