Tortoise at Our Long Island Zoo

Long Island Tortoise

Tortoises are endangered species that are in the family of land reptiles, which come from the order known as Testudines, and are closely related to the sea turtle. Just like many other reptiles, the tortoise has scales all over its skin, even though they are not visible. They typically live near sandy soil and close to bodies of water. Their most distinct feature is their strong, protective shell that allows them to hide their head, legs, and tails from lurking predators. Their shells can vary in size—ranging from a few centimeters to several meters in length. The top part of their shell is called the carapace and the underside of the shell is known as the plastron.

A tortoise is considered a herbivore, consuming different types of grasses, greens, flowers, and fruits. However, some species of tortoise are considered omnivores and may also eat insects and worms. Tortoises have to be careful when eating other animals, as some studies have shown that the consumption of animals may cause shell deformities and other medical issues. Typically, they seek food throughout the day and sleep at night, which classifies them as diurnal.

When giving birth, female tortoises can lay between one and 30 eggs. They dig burrows for nesting which is where the babies stay until they are ready to walk. After the eggs hatch, only a handful of babies will survive due to the susceptibility of being killed by hungry predators, such as foxes, badgers, and coyotes. After they are born they grow at a fast pace, reaching anywhere from two to 47 inches as an adult, and can weigh over 600 pounds!