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Scientific classification
Order: Chelonia
Testudinidae - Land tortoises
Gopherus - North American tortoises

In Europe, tortoise is the name given to the land-dwelling reptiles most of whose body is shielded by a special shell. Turtles and terrapins are the marine species. All living tortoises are members of the the order Chelonia.

All tortoises have a protective shell around their bodies. The top part of their case is called the carapace[?], the underside is the plastron[?], and the two are connected by the bridge.

The size of tortoises can vary from a few centimetres to up to two meters. Tortoises generally live a long time; some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years.

The giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution, since the isolated populations on the different islands, although descend from a common ancestor, had diverged to different forms.

All land totoises are herbivorous.

The first chelonians already existed in the era of the dinosaurs, some 200 million years ago. Chelonians are the only surviving branch of the even more ancient clade Anapsida, which includes groups such as the procolophonoids[?], millerettids[?] and pareiasaurs[?]. Most of the anapsids became extinct in the late Permian period, with the exception of the procolophonoids[?] and the precursors of the testudines (turtles and tortoises).

Partial species list.

  • Bowsprit Tortoise, Chersine angulata
  • Dipsochelys abrupta
  • Arnold's Giant Tortoise, Dipsochelys arnoldi
  • Dipsochelys daudinii
  • Aldabra Giant Tortoise, Dipsochelys dussumieri
  • Dipsochelys grandidieri
  • Seychelles Giant Tortoise, Dipsochelys hololissa
  • Tunisian Spur-thigh Tortoise, Furculachelys nabeulensis
  • Red-Footed Tortoise, Geochelone carbonaria
  • Chaco Tortoise, Geochelone chilensis
  • Yellow-Footed Tortoise, Geochelone denticulata
  • Indian Star Tortoise, Geochelone elegans
  • Galapagos Giant Tortoise, Geochelone nigra
  • Leopard Tortoise, Geochelone pardalis
  • Burmese Star Tortoise, Geochelone platynota
  • Radiated Tortoise, Geochelone radiata
  • African Spurred Tortoise, Geochelone sulcata
  • Angulated Tortoise, Geochelone yniphora
  • Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii
  • Texas Tortoise, Gopherus berlandieri
  • Bolson Tortoise, Gopherus flavomarginatus
  • Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus
  • Parrot-Beaked Cape Tortoise, Homopus aerolatus
  • Boulenger's Cape Tortoise, Homopus boulengeri
  • Karroo Cape Tortoise, Homopus femoralis
  • Speckled Cape Tortoise, Homopus signatus
  • Elongated Tortoise, Indotestudo elongata
  • Travancore Tortoise, Indotestudo forsteni
  • Bell's Hinge-Backed Tortoise, Kinixys belliana
  • Serrated Hinge-Backed Tortoise, Kinixys erosa
  • Home's Hinge-Backed Tortoise, Kinixys homeana
  • Natal Hinge-Backed Tortoise, Kinixys natalensis
  • Kinixys spekii
  • Pancake Tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri
  • Brown Tortoise / Mountain Tortoise, Manouria emys
  • Impressed Tortoise, Manouria impressa
  • Geometric Tortoise, Psammobates geometricus
  • Serrated Star Tortoise, Psammobates oculiferus
  • African Tent Tortoise, Psammobates tentorius
  • Madagascan Spider Tortoise, Pyxis arachnoides
  • Madagascan Flat-Tailed Tortoise, Pyxis planicauda
  • Greek Tortoise, Spur-Thighed Tortoise, Testudo graeca
  • Herman's Tortoise, Testudo hermanni
  • Russian Tortoise, Horsfield's Tortoise, Testudo horsfieldii
  • Egyptian Tortoise, Testudo kleinmanni
  • Marginated Tortoise, Testudo marginata

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