Definitions

gopherus polypemus

Gopherus

Gopherus is a genus of tortoises commonly referred to as gopher tortoises. The gopher tortoise is grouped with land tortoises that originated 60 million years ago, in North America. A genetic study has shown that their closest relatives are in the Asian genus Manouria.

The gopher tortoises live in the southern United States from California's Mojave desert across to Florida, and in parts of northern Mexico. Gopher tortoises are so named because of their ability to dig large, deep burrows that can be up to in length and in depth. Their burrows are also used by a number of other species, which is what makes gopher tortoises so important to the ecosystem. Gopher tortoises can grow on average to around a foot long and can weigh around 29 pounds. The gopher tortoise lives in habitats of longleaf pine sandhills, xeric oak hammocks, scrub, pine flatwoods, dry prairies, and coastal dunes. However, the gopher tortoise is now listed as a threatened or endangered species, because of the rapid depletion of their habitat from land development.

Diet

Gopher tortoises are mainly herbivores that feed on low growing plant life. Their diet consists mostly of grasses and legumes. Gopher tortoises are scavengers and will also feed on small berries, fruits and dead animals or excrements. Gopher tortoises are rarely seen drinking from still water. Most of the water gopher tortoises consume comes from with in the food they eat.

Breeding

Gopher tortoises usually mate during the months of April and May. The female will then choose either a sunny spot near by or a sandy mound in front of her burrow to lay between 3 to 15 eggs. The eggs then hatch from 70 to 100 days later. Once hatched the baby tortoises spend most of their time in their mother's burrow until they learn to dig their own. They do not reach maturity until they are around 10 to 15 years old, and their shell measures in length to be about 9 inches.

Genus

There are currently four recognized species in the genus Gopherus:

Genus Gopherus:

References

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