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Marginated Tortoise :

Testudo marginata

Close-up of fore limbs and head, showing the particularly large scales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 


The marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata) is a species of tortoise found in Greece, Italy and the Balkans in southern Europe. It is the largest European tortoise, reaching a weight of up to 5 kg (11 lb) and a length of 35 cm (14 in). Its shell is oblong and has a notable thickness around the middle of the body. The posterior end of the shell has a saw-like formation, flanged outward like abell. The carapaces of adult specimens are almost completely black, with yellow highlights. The front sides of the limbs are covered with large scales. The tail is notable for a lengthwise marking and for an undivided carapace over the tail. The marginated tortoise is herbivorous, and hibernates for the winter.

Marginated tortoise

Sardinian marginated tortoise
Testudo marginata sarda


Conservation status






Scientific classification








Species:T. marginata

Binomial name

Testudo marginata
Schoepf, 1789

Subspecies :

-Testudo marginata marginataSchoepf, 1789(Greek marginated tortoise)

-Testudo marginata sarda Mayer, 1992(Sardinian marginated tortoise)


Taxonomy :


The marginated tortoise was formally described by German naturalist Johann David Schoepf in 1789; its specific epithetmarginata is a straightforward derivation from the Latin term for 'marginated'.


The nominate subspecies is the Greek marginated tortoise,Testudo marginata marginata. Three additional subspecies of marginated tortoises have been named:


The Sardinian marginated tortoise (T. m. sarda) is the name usually used to separate the population on the island ofSardinia. These tortoises have less strongly bent tiles in the posterior of their carapaces, and the posterior of the carapace is almost smooth compared with the saw-like T. m. marginata. Clearly distinct according to morphologyand entirely allopatric, it cannot be distinguished bymtDNA cytochrome b and nDNA ISSR sequenceanalysis.[2] Lineage sorting has not occurred to a considerable degree; consequently, the more geographically isolated Sardinian population is presumably of quite recent origin.


Indeed, it appears to derive from a deliberate introduction 


by humans.[2] Though it is not clear whether this occurred in prehistoric times or more recently, this might be resolved by dating subfossil remains. Sequence evolution at least in mtDNA is known to proceed much more slowly in some turtles and tortoises than in others;[3] the rate of the mitochondrial12S rRNA gene in Testudo is probably a rather low 1.0-1.6% per million years (as this fits best thepaleobiogeographical situation), limiting the resolution provided by molecular systematics.[4]


An extinct subspecies described as T. m. cretensis persisted on Crete before the end of the last ice age.[5]


A population of small and light-colored marginated tortoises exists on the southwestern coast of the Peloponnesus, between Kalamata and south of Stoupa. The so-called "dwarf marginated tortoise" was described as a new species Testudo weissingeri, but it is not recognizably distinctphylogenetically. Unlike the Sardinian population, it occupies an extremely restricted range with very arid habitat, and its apomorphies seem related to this. Considering ice age-associated climate and sea level changes, this population is probably not older than a few thousand years; as it is not geographically isolated, it should be considered a local form, and not even a subspecies T. m. weissingeri. Notably, a similar situation is found in Hermann's tortoises living in the same region.[6][2]

  • Testudo marginata Schoepff, 1793

  • Testudo graja Hermann, 1793

  • Chersine marginata Merrem, 1820

  • Chersus marginatus Wagler, 1830

  • Testudo campanulata Gray, 1831(nomen nudum)

  • Testudo graji Gray, 1831 (ex errore)

  • Testudo campanulata Strauch, 1862

  • Peltastes marginatus Gray, 1869

  • Peltastes marginata Gray, 1872

  • Testudo nemoralis Schreiber, 1875

  • Testudo marginata sarda Mayer, 1992

  • Testudo marginata weissingeriTrutnau, 1994

  • Testudo weissingeri Bour, 1996

  • Testudo marginata marginataRogner, 1996


Testudo marginata is also closely related to the Greek or spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca). Both have very similar bodily characteristics - oblong carapaces, large scales on the front legs, large coverings for the head and cone-like scales on the upper thighs, undivided tail coverings, moveable stomach plates, and lack of tail spikes. Presumably, Testudo marginata diverged from ancestral Testudo graeca as a population more suited for life in the mountainous regions. Evidence in favor of this is the wide geographical region and the extremely large number of subspecies of Testudo graeca, including a subspecies in Turkey with strongly bent carapace tiles, like the marginated tortoise. Testudo marginata on the other hand, despite the two subspecies, presents a much more unified appearance, which points toward an earlier appearance in evolutionary history. In captivity, the two species often cross-breed, but this should be avoided.


According to the 2005 DNA sequence data,[2] these species do not seem to hybridize to a notable extent in the wild, though they are obviously very close relatives, and as evidenced by morphology, some allele flow still occurs, but slowly. The Egyptian tortoise appears to represent a lineage that diverged from the same ancestral stock southwards into northeastern Africa around the same time as the marginated tortoise's ancestors diverged in Greece. These two are actually more similar to each other than to T. graeca regarding DNA sequence data,[7] but considering biogeography, this is either due to (rather unlikely) dispersal across the Mediterranean, or the supposed "clade" is invalid and the similarity due to convergent evolution.


Description :


The marginated tortoise is the largest European tortoise, reaching a weight of up to 5 kg (11 lb) and a length of 35 cm (14 in). Its shell is oblong and has a notable thickness around the middle of the body. The posterior end of the shell has a saw-like formation, flanged outward like a bell. The carapace of an adult specimen is almost completely black, with yellow highlights. The ventral shell is lighter-coloured and has pairs of triangular markings with the points facing the rear of the animal. The front sides of the limbs are covered with large scales. In an old female specimen, the rear flaps of the underside of her plastron is somewhat moveable. The tail is notable for a lengthwise marking and for an undivided carapace over the tail. The male has a longer tail, which is thicker at the base than the female's. The underside is more strongly indented. Males are also often larger than the females. The females lay their hard-shelled spherical eggs in the soil in May and June.


Distribution and habitat :


The natural range of the marginated tortoise is southern Greece, from the Peloponnesus to Mount Olympus. They are also found in isolated zones of the Balkans and Italy, and northeastern Sardinia.




A marginated tortoise emerges into the world.

The marginated tortoise lives in more mountainous regions than Hermann's tortoise. It can be found in elevations as high as 1,600 m (5,200 ft). The black color of the carapace is helpful for survival in this environment, as it allows the tortoise to absorb a great deal of heat in a short time, helping it maintain itsbody temperature. Early in the morning, marginated tortoises bask in the sun to raise their body temperature, and then search for food. After feeding, the tortoises return to their shelters in the hot midday hours, leaving them again in the late afternoon.


Behaviour :


Marginated tortoises are fairly calm and relaxed, although they can be somewhat territorial in the wild. They have a controlled temper and are generally slow to anger. If they are not given the proper diet in captivity, however, they will become rather aggressive and might mistakenly attack if they feel threatened.


Diet :


Marginated tortoises are herbivorous, their diets consisting primarily of plants from their native Mediterranean region.


Reproduction :


Immediately after waking from hibernation, the mating instinct starts up. The males follow the females with great interest, encircling them, biting them on the limbs, ramming them, and trying to mount them. During copulation, the male opens his mouth, showing his red tongue and making loud cries. The tone of the copulation cry is almost sobbing with long, deep tones, in contrast to T. hermanni, which uses a much higher-toned, peeping noise.


During mating, the female stands still and holds her head to the side, looking up to see the opened mouth of the male. The red tongue apparently serves a signalling function. The female moves her head from left to right in the same rhythm as the male's cries.


Afterwards, the female seeks out an adequate location to lay her eggs. Once such a place is found, the female stands still, propping both front legs firmly against the ground. Then she digs out a hole with her hind legs, alternating between left and right, beginning with simply scratching the ground but eventually moving large quantities of soil which are piled up beside the hole. The depth of the hole is determined by the length of her hind legs. If the ground is too hard to dig, the female releases water from her anal gland to soften it.


Once the hole is dug, egg-laying begins. Each egg is gently rolled back into the hole. After the last egg, the female immediately begins refilling the hole, again using her hind legs. Finally, she stamps the opening closed with her feet so that the ground regains its natural hardness. Larger animals may lay eggs as many as three times per summer, with about 15 eggs per clutch.


The incubation period averages about 100 days under natural conditions, which is relatively short among tortoises. Many tropical tortoises have incubation periods of up to 200 days. The relatively short time is an adaptation to the subtropical Mediterranean climate, where the summers are not as long. In an incubator, this time is notably shorter: with an incubation temperature of 31.5 °C (88.7 °F) the eggs will begin hatching after 60 days.




























Unlike bird eggs, the yolk and albumen of reptile eggs are not separated by a membrane. After a few days, the heavy yolk components sink to the bottom of the egg. On top of this floats the embryonaldisk, surrounded by albumen, so the tortoise eggs cannot be turned after the yolk settles without damaging or killing the embryo.


It is possible to see with the naked eye if the eggs are developing healthily. Freshly laid eggs have a gray-white color. Shortly thereafter, a bright white spot forms on the uppermost point of the egg. This spot gradually grows until the entire egg is bright white.


After the embryo has developed fully in the egg, the young animal breaks the shell with its egg toothfrom inside, creates a small opening, and for the first time fills its lungs with air. Afterwards, it pulls back into the egg and works on the shell with its beak until it opens completely. In nature, the animal remains below ground for the first two weeks, where it is safe from predators, yet is still able to grow, as it is nourished by the yolk sac. The young animals lead cautious and secretive lives, normally remaining in the shade. They avoid full sunlight because of the great danger of overheating.


Marginated tortoises grow very rapidly. In an ideal biotope, or with good handling, they gain 100–500 g (3.5–17.6 oz) yearly. This quick rate of growth lasts throughout their youth. After the 20th year of life, further growth is minimal. They may live between 100 and 140 years, according to the best estimates of scientists.




Greek (left) and Sardinian marginated tortoises

Carapace shapes of Greek (left) and Sardinian marginated tortoises

Two marginated tortoisesmating

Laying eggs

Building a nest burrow

Free at last

Egg shells with skins

T. marginata young

Finished burrow

Terrarium for raising young

The tell-tale tail: The carapace protecting the tail is not divided, as in most tortoises.

T. marginata

Greek tortoise, T. graeca

A female T. marginatawith a broad-edged carapace: The cloacal opening is visible on the tail.

Hybrid, T. marginata × T. graeca (father × mother)

A male T. marginata marginata, identified by the long tail with broad base

Old T. m. sarda

In captivity :


Tortoises can thrive in captivity if the owner understands their needs well. A heat lamp is attached to the tortoise's table, directed in such a way that the 60-watt reflector bulb is some 15–20 cm (6–8 in) from the floor of the table, which is covered with about 5 cm of substraite, loam based soil and play sand. When the lamp is turned on in the morning, the animals emerge from the ground, bask in the light to warm themselves, and begin to eat. They should be fed several times a day with clover, dandelions and garden weeds (check first as a few are harmful. Some owners give pellet food occasionally, these should be avoided, only feed your tortoise what they would naturally eat in the wild, their digestive systems do not cope well with protein, of which there is a lot in pellet foods. The animals also require ultraviolet light, thus they should be allowed to bask in the sunlight daily, but for only a short period of time. In the summer, they can be taken outdoors for this purpose, in the winter if not hybernated they need access to UVB light every day. Care must be taken to avoid allowing the tortoise to overheat (use a digital thermometer to keep a check).


Outdoors :


In temperate zones, Marginated Tortoises can be kept outside from approximately mid-March to October. Their pen should be in the sunniest place in the garden, preferably close to the house. It is important to provide a wooden house where they can get into the shade. They should be provided enough gravel that they can completely bury themselves when needed.


The animals will leave the house in the morning, warm themselves, and eat. Afterwards, they return to the house. In the late afternoon, they will reemerge from their shelter. Tortoises do not need as much sunlight as many assume is required for a reptile. By October, they will take longer and longer pauses during the day. At this point, they should be transferred into a roomy crate filled with dry leaves and kept in a cool room. With a temperature under 10 °C (50 °F), they will hibernate until mid-March, though younger animals will awaken much earlier.



Testuggine marginata (Testudo marginata) - Marginated Tortoise or Margined Tortoise

Testudo marginata (Schoepff, 1792)  The Marginated Tortoise


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This care sheet is intended only to cover the general care of this species. Further research to best develop a maintenance plan for whichever species you are caring for is essential..

Testudo marginata (Schoepff, 1792) is a medium-sized tortoise species originally native to Greece. Adults can reach 12-14 inches, making them one of the largest of the Mediterranean species. Male tortoises are
distinguished by their broadly flared rear marginal scutes, hence the name "marginata". Males are also generally smaller, with a more elongate body shape than the females, and have longer, thicker tails. Typical wild habitat is arid, scrubby, rocky hillsides where the tortoises spend mornings and late afternoons browsing on weeds, shrubs and flowers while resting in the shade during the hottest afternoon hours. During the winter months, Marginated Tortoises hibernate underground, a characteristic which should be taken into account by prospective keepers (see "Hibernation Guidelines" on the WCT website for more information.)

Captive-bred marginata hatchlings are often available and can be kept under the same captive conditions required by T. hermanni. They will best thrive if kept outdoors during the summer months; a good-sized, predator-proof fenced enclosure planted with edible shrubs and weeds and furnished with a choice of shelters and a shallow water tray will suit them nicely. These tortoises are  capable diggers, so perimeter fences should extend below ground to prevent escape. Indoors, a roomy tortoise table or other arrangement should include both basking and UVB fixtures or a combination UVB-heat bulb, a variety of landscape features for hiding and climbing, and a very shallow water dish. Temperatures should range from 90-95F (32-35 degrees C) in the basking area to high room temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure; this will allow the tortoise to regulate body temperature and metabolism as needed. Substrate can be a 50/50 mix of topsoil and play sand, and can include areas of dry orchard hay for feeding and burrowing. Especially in the case of young tortoises, a more humid area should be provided to prevent dehydration. This can be simply an area of damper soil, if the enclosure is large enough, or a humid hide-box or cave.

Diet should include the largest possible range of weeds, leaves and flowers, and can include dandelion, plantain, mallow, chicory, hibiscus, mulberry, grasses, sow thistle, clover, vetch, romaine, endive, escarole, opuntia, and occasional summer/winter squash or pumpkin and tomato. Dog and cat foods are not recommended for these tortoises. Fruits (melon, strawberries, apple, etc.) should only be offered as a very occasional treat. Foods should be sprinkled with Herptivite weekly and calcium powder several times
per week, especially for juvenile or breeding animals. Use calcium supplemented with vitamin D3 for indoor tortoises, and without vitamin D3 for those living outdoors. Water should be made available for drinking and soaking.

Marginata are generally easy-going, beautiful and friendly tortoises with few health problems once established in good housing and environmental conditions.


It should be noted that turtle and tortoise care research is ongoing. As new information becomes available we share this on the World Chelonian Trust web site at Serious keepers find it to be a benefit to have the support of others who keep these species. Care is discussed in our free online email community, which may be joined from the web address above. Please contact us about the many benefits of becoming a member of the World Chelonian Trust.



Testudo marginata


courtesy to  :


  • Family: Testudinidae

  • Adult Size: 8 to 12 lbs.

  • Range: Greece, Southern Balkan Peninsula.

  • Habitat: Hills and mountain areas.

  • Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years

  • Dangerous:

  • Care Level: Intermediate

Overview :


The marginated tortoise is a unique looking tortoise because of its extremely flared marginal scutes from which it gets its name. The males’ marginal scutes are usually much more flared than on the female.


Wild caught specimens of this tortoise used to be a commonly imported tortoise but is now not imported at all as wild caught tortoises because it is protected throughout its range. Because of successful breeding in captivity it is now becoming more commonly available as captive born tortoises.


Marginated tortoises are very cold tolerant and should be maintained at a temperature range of 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the basking site. If temperatures fall below this they will be inclined to hibernate which they do in the wild when the seasons dictate it.


These tortoises are opportunistic feeders in that they will take the usual dark leafy greens, weeds and some grasses. They are not known to be very active grazers. Marginateds are also known to consume insects, snails and carrion. In captivity they can be fed dark leafy greens, fibrous fruits such as pears and apples in addition to various berries. The main idea is to feed as varied as possible. Clean fresh water in a water dish should be provided at all times.


One important note on breeding is that the marginated tortoise is one of the most aggressive tortoises when it comes to breeding. Aggressive ramming towards the female can be so severe that female marginateds have been killed in the process.

Videos for keeping and breeding : 



All Growns Up: Kamp Kenan Episode 10 Bonus

Baby CB Marginated Tortoises

Marginated tortoises

Mediterranean Tortoise Diet - Hermann's, Horsfield's, Greek, Egyptian and Marginated.

How To Setup A Tortoise Habitat - Marginated Tortoise Hatchling

Marginated tortoise setup

Tortoises  -  Introduction Care and breeding - General information   PART one   ..  PART two 

                      -   Species List :                        

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