Close

Sun Subscriber Website Login






Please wait....
 
News Story
Updated: 06/18/2014 12:21:57AM

Florida’s gopher tortoise, a keystone species

Share this story:


PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (KWH)

Gopher tortoise burrow entrances usually feature a broad apron of excavated soil. The gopher is an excellent digger and burrows may reach as long as 40 feet or more. Beneath the ground the conditions stay a comfortable 72 degrees year-round—an ideal habitat for many other species.

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

The young hatchlings are about 2 inches long and look like exact replicas of the adult, except they are a bright golden yellow and brown. At this stage they are very vulnerable. Lawn mowers, raccoons, dogs, cats and children are the biggest threats.

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

The young hatchlings are about 2 inches long and look like exact replicas of the adult, except they are a bright golden yellow and brown. At this stage they are very vulnerable. Lawn mowers, raccoons, dogs, cats and children are the biggest threats.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (KWH)

Gopher tortoise burrow entrances usually feature a broad apron of excavated soil. The gopher is an excellent digger and burrows may reach as long as 40 feet or more. Beneath the ground the conditions stay a comfortable 72 degrees year-round—an ideal habitat for many other species.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (BOB PETERSON)

Adult gophers are about one foot long and may weigh nearly 30 pounds. They reach sexual maturity at about 12 to 15 years, and may live as long as 80 years.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (ANDREA WESTMORELAND)

Gopher tortoises mate in early spring. In case you’ve wondered how tortoises mate, the male plastron (lower shell) is concave so that he doesn’t slide off the female.

Text Size:


Florida has 48 species of turtles, but only one is a tortoise. What distinguishes tortoises from other turtles? Tortoises are land-dwelling reptiles. They do not swim and cannot survive in water.

All turtles lay eggs. Like other reptiles they have dry scaly skin. Their shell is an integral part of their skeleton. Turtles do not shed their shell — it just keeps growing larger throughout their lifetime. Turtles regulate their body temperature externally; that’s why you will often see both turtles and tortoises basking in the sun.

You are currently not logged in
By logging in you can see the full story.

Subscribe to 
							the E-Edition
Get the Sun Delivered


ADVERTISEMENT