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Distinguished Author

Bocage-JV-Barbosa-du-1823-1.jpg

José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage
  (1823-1907).

A Portuguese zoologist and politician. He was the curator of Zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Lisbon. His work at the Museum consisted in acquiring, describing and coordinating collections, many of which arrived from the Portuguese colonies in Africa, such as Angola, Mozambique, etc. He published more than 200 taxonomic papers on mammals, birds, and fishes. In the 1880s he became the Minister of the Navy and later the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Portugal. The zoology collection at the Lisbon Museum is called the Bocage Museum in his honor. He was responsible for identifying many new species, which he named according to the naturalist who found them.

Species of the month

Gopher Tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus

Gopherus polyphemus

Some facts on this tortoise:

Size: Carapace length, 20-30 cm.

Weight: 2-6 kg.

Habitat: Prefers habitats with well-drained, sandy soil, including long leaf pine forests.

Range: Southeastern United States.

Diet: Broad-leaved grass, regular grass, wire grass, and terrestrial legumes; also mushrooms and fruits.

Clutch size: 3-15 eggs.

Life span: 60 years.

Conservation status: Vulnerable (IUCN 2.3).

First described: By the French zoologist François Marie Daudin in 1802, who named it originally Testudo polyphemus.


Gopherus polyphemus is a born digger. This tortoise is endowed with shovel-like front feet that allow it to dig burrows up to 12 meters in length with relative ease. These underground lairs provide shelter from forest fires and offer hatchlings some protection from the many predators that would like to make them a meal. Other animals use the tortoise's burrows as well, sometimes, but not always waiting until the tortoise has abandoned them. These burrows are so important to the overall ecosystem that Gopherus polyphemus is considered a keystone species. The genus Gopherus called "gopher tortoises" contains 5 species and belongs to the Testudinidae, or Tortoises family.

See also: Species of previous months

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