Desert Tortoise

AnimalDesert Tortoise
Scientific NameGopherus agassizii
Lifespan50 + years
Size5 – 38 cm
Weight3.6 – 6.8 kg
Conservation statusLeast concern > Near threatened >
Vulnerable > Endangered >
Critically endangered > Extinct in the wild >

Desert tortoises can be found in Mexico and the United States’ deserts, grasslands, and tropical dry forests. Most of their lives are spent in rock shelters, pallets, and burrows (tunnels dug in ground) in order to keep fresh. Just a single burrow can contain over twenty-three desert tortoises.

Desert tortoises are solitary animals despite them living with each other in burrows. At times when males meet unexpectedly, they can have a fight for superiority. They win by using their chest’s horns to knock each other over. The loser flips themselves back up and the fight ends.

These tortoises are herbivores. They usually eat grass but can also eat herbs, fruits, flowers, and newly grown cacti. For drinking water, tortoises dig holes in the ground and wait for it to rain. The rain fills up the holes with water and the tortoise drinks it. They keep the water they drank in their bladder and can later soak that up to hydrate. This way they can go a whole year before needing to drink again.

Desert tortoises are polygynandry, meaning both males and females have multiple partners during mating season. Mating season is autumn and spring. In this time, males grow two big chin glands. A few months after mating, the female lays 4 – 8 eggs in June or July. They hatch in August or September. Baby tortoises don’t have their mother to care for them and they grow quite slowly.


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