|Copyright: Dario Maric (DarioM)
|Date Taken: 2009-04-06|
|Exposure: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds|
|More Photo Info: [view]|
|Photo Version: Original Version|
|Date Submitted: 2009-07-07 6:38|
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Testudo hermanni can be found throughout southern Europe. The western population (hermanni) is found in eastern Spain, southern France, the Baleares islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, south and central Italy (Tuscany). The eastern population (boettgeri) Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece. While hercegovinensis populates coasts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro.|
Description and systematics
Hermann's tortoises are small to medium sized tortoises that come from southern Europe. Young animals, and some adults, have attractive black and yellow patterned carapaces, although the brightness may fade with age to a less distinct gray, straw or yellow coloration.
The eastern subspecies Testudo hermanni boettgeri is much larger than the western, reaching sizes up to 28 cm (11 inches) in length. A specimen of this size may weigh 3-4 kg (6-9 lb). T. h. hermanni rarely grow larger than 18 cm (7.5 inches). Some adult specimens are as small as 7 cm (3 inches).
In 2006 it was suggested to move Hermann's Tortoise to the genus Eurotestudo and to bring the subspecies to the rank of species (Eurotestudo hermanni and Eurotestudo boettgeri). Though there are some indications that this might be correct, the data at hand is not unequivocally in support and the relationships between Hermann's and the Russian Tortoise among each other and to the other species placed in Testudo are not robustly determined. Hence it seems doubtful that the new genus will be accepted for the time being. The elevation of the subspecies to full species was tentatively rejected under the Biological Species Concept at least, as there still seems significant gene flow.
It was also noted that the rate of evolution as measured by mutations accumulating in the mtDNA differs markedly, with the eastern populations having evolved faster. This is apparently due to stronger fragmentation of the population on the mountainous Balkans during the last ice age. While this has no profound implications for taxonomy of this species - apart from suggesting that two other proposed subspecies are actually just local forms at present -, it renders the use of molecular clocks in Testudo even more dubious and unreliable than they are for turtles in general
Early in the morning, the animals leave their nightly shelters, which are usually hollows protected by thick bushes or hedges, to bask in the sun and warm their bodies. They then roam about the Mediterranean meadows of their habitat in search of food. They determine which plants to eat by the sense of smell. (In captivity, they are known to eat dandelions, clover and lettuce as well as the leaves, flowers, and pods of almost all legumes.) In addition to leaves and flowers, the animals eat fruits as supplementary nutrition. They only eat a small amount of fruit, just enough to satisfy themselves.
Around midday, the sun becomes too hot for the tortoises, so they return to their hiding places. They have a good sense of direction to enable them to return. Experiments have shown that they also possess a good sense of time, the position of the sun, the magnetic lines of the earth, and for landmarks. In the late afternoon, they leave their shelters again and return to feeding.
Tortoises are particularly long-lived animals, which are presumed to live as long as 70-100 years.
According to shelledwarriors the longest known still living Hermann tortoise of today is named Little Foot, and owned by a Miss S Emiliou in the UK, the tortoise is said to be 118 as of 2009
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