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Tunisian Tortoise

The North African country of Tunisia was, until recently, thought to be home to a tiny and attractively marked subspecies of T.Graeca, but recent research conducted by Andy Highfield and Jill Martin resulted in this tortoise not only being renames but also being placed in a newly proposed genus – Furculachelys.

It is now commonly accepted as Furculachelys Nabeulensis (Highfield and Martin 1990) although many texts still refer to it as a Tunisian T.Graeca. Although it does in fact resemble a Testudo Graeca with spurs upon its rear thighs, absent tail spur, light colouration and a light yellow cluster of scales on the top of the head as is seen in some Moroccan Graeca, it is easily distinguishable from T.Graeca because of its size.

This tortoise is very small in overall dimensions with the mean carapace length for adult males being 12.5cm and females 16cm. The carapace is similarly shaped to T.Graeca but features a light yellow background colouration complimented beautifully by contrasting black circular blotches in the centres of the vertebral and costal scutes. It also displays dark perimeter edging surrounding all of the scutes; however these markings often fade in elderly animals.

The plastron is of the same background colouration as the carapace but displays a large irregular shaped dark blotch which is centrally positioned. The skin colouration of the legs and neck is comprised of a light tan with irregular small clusters of darker scales, and the top of its head is home to a triangular shaped cluster of bright yellow scales which are easily noticeable and visually attractive.

Another key indentifying characteristic of this animal is its overall skinny appearance; in particular the legs are very thin when compared to most other land tortoises. It carries very little fat at all and so consequently should not be hibernated.

Gender Diversity

Males are smaller in overall size and have a more elongated body shape with a narrower “waist”. Male tails are longer and thicker, normally carried upwards and towards one side, whereas females have short stubby tails which point straight down. Again, the male’s plastron is concave whereas the female’s plastron is flat.

Identification in Brief

  • Large single spur on each upper rear thigh
  • No horny tip on the end of the tail
  • Very small adult size
  • Yellow head markings
  • Yellow carapace with contrasting melanistic dots in the centre of the scutes
  • Think legs

Requirements

Housing

Both Indoor and Outdoor/Greenhouse accommodation

Substrate

Sandy with rocks and gravel

Diet

Herbivorous

Planting

Coarse Scrubs, Cacti, Grasses & Weeds

Hibernation

No

Other

-Cannot tolerate cold or damp

-Must have year-round heated accommodation

-Cannot be hibernated