TortoiseTortoises or land turtles are land-dwelling reptiles of the family of Testudinidae, order Testudines. Like their aquatic cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise has both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton. Tortoises can vary in size from a few centimetres to two meters. Tortoises tend to be diurnal animals with tendencies to be crepuscular depending on the ambient temperatures. They are generally reclusive and shy.
BirthFemale tortoises dig burrows in which they lay from two to twelve eggs. Hatchlings take approximately 90-120 days to incubate within the ping-pong-ball sized eggs. Upon completion of the incubation period the hatchlings break open egg shell enclosure with their beak and dig their way to the surface. Most hatchlings are born with an embryonic egg sac which serves as a source of food until they are capable of eating solid foods, this stage lasts between 3 and 7 days. Unlike turtles, hatchlings of most tortoise species will move from their nest and into their mother's burrow following birth. The mother will usually provide protection for the hatchlings for around 80 days, after which the babies will attempt to survive on their own.
LifespanThere are many old wives tales about the age of turtles and tortoises, one of which being that the age of a tortoise can be deducted by counting the number of concentric rings on its carapace, much like the cross-section of a tree. This is, of course, not true, since the growth of a tortoise depends highly on the access of food and water. A tortoise that has access to plenty of forage (or is regularly fed by its owner) will grow faster than a desert tortoise that goes days without eating.,
Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China. The oldest tortoise ever recorded, almost the oldest individual animal ever recorded, was Tui Malila, who was presented to the Tongan royal family by the British explorer Captain Cook shortly after its birth in 1777. Tui Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death by natural causes on May 19, 1965. This means that upon its death, Tui Malila was 188 years old. The record for the longest-lived vertebrate is succeeded only by one other, a Koi Fish named "Hanako" whose death on July 17, 1977 ended a 226 year life span.
The Alipore Zoo in India was the home to Adwaitya, which zoo officials claimed was the oldest living animal until its death on March 23, 2006. Adwaitya (sometimes spelled with two d's) was an Aldabra Giant Tortoise brought to India by Lord Wellesley who handed it over to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875 when the zoo was set up. Zoo officials state they have documentation showing that Adwaitya was at least 130 years old, but claim that he was over 250 years old (although this has not been scientifically verified). Adwaitya was said to be the pet of Robert Clive.Harriet, a resident at the Australia Zoo in Queensland, was apocryphally thought to have been brought to England by Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle. Harriet died on June 23, 2006, just shy of her 176th birthday.
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