Species of the month
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 originally named it 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