Basic Information Sheet: Marginated Tortoise

Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)

Marginated Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Testudo marginata sarda. Photo credit: Crux via Wikimedia Commons.

Natural history



The marginated tortoise is found in Greece and Sardinia, as well as Italy, southern Albania, and the Balkan Islands. This species was also introduced into Turkey. Its natural habitat consists of dry scrub, woodland, and hillsides.

Conservation status



The marginated tortoise is listed on CITES Appendix 2 and its conservation status is listed as “least concern” by the International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Most animals in the pet trade come from captive breeding.

Taxonomy



Class: Reptilia

Order: Chelonia/Testudines

Family: Testudinidae

Genus: Testudo

Testudo marginata

Testudo marginata marginata

Testudo marginata sarda

Depending on the source, Testudo weissingeri is classified as either a separate species of genus Testudo or a subspecies of the marginated tortoise.


Physical description



Testudo marginata is the largest species in the Testudo genus. Adults range from 25-40 cm (10-15.7 in) in length and weigh up to 5 kg.

Testudo marginata and Testudo weissingeri have similar identifying features, and T. weissingeri was originally considered a dwarf population of Testudo marginata. The shell length of T. weissingeri is normally less than 21.5 cm (8.5 in). Testudo weissingeri can also be visually distinguished from Testudo marginata by carapace coloration.

  • Carapace coloration in T. weissingeri is dull brown or blackish, with greyish-yellow or horn-collared patches flecked with grey.
  • Testudo marginata possess a more contrasting pattern of  pale yellow on black.

Marginated tortoises possess an oblong, domed shell. The supracaudal and posterior marginal scutes are prominently flared and “saw-like”. There are also four or five longitudinal rows of enlarged scales on the anterior surface of the foreleg. Usually there are no spurs on the tail or thighs.


Diet



The free-ranging marginated tortoise is herbivorous, consuming primarily grasses, flowers, and some fruits. The majority of the captive diet should consist of greens, grasses, and flowers, some vegetables and small amounts of fruit. A shallow bowl or plant saucer should be provided for access to water for soaking and drinking. See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.

Housing


TemperatureThe daytime temperature gradient should range from 26°C-30°C (78.8-86°F) with a basking spot that reaches 30°C-33°C (85°F-90°F). The nighttime temperature should fall no lower than 18°C (64.4°F).
LightingArtificial UVB lighting is recommended for captive specimens. Visit the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.
Cage size and designIf possible, outdoor housing is preferred during warm weather months. Most Testudo marginata are quite hardy and will cope outdoors in well-drained herbaceous areas that are protected and enclosed. Indoor housing must be large enough to allow roaming.

Visit the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional recommendations including information on brumation.


Physiologic values


Reproductive seasonApril to June, eggs laid June, July
Eggs per clutch3-11
Laying site10 cm (4 in) deep excavations
Incubation2-4 months, depending on soil temperature


Venipuncture



The brachial/ulnar venous plexus can produce less hemodilution than the dorsal coccygeal vein in T. marginata. See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.

Preventive medicine



See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Important medical conditions



Tortoise herpesvirus 3 (TeHV3) infection can cause severe disease and high morbidity and mortality in Testudo marginata. See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.

Quiz


Click here to access LafeberVet’s Testudo Tortoise Fast 5 Quiz.

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References and further reading