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.