tortoise

/tawr"teuhs/, n.
1. a turtle, esp. a terrestrial turtle.
2. a very slow person or thing.
3. testudo (def. 1).
[1350-1400; var. of earlier (15th-century) tortuse, tortose, tortuce, ME tortuca < ML tortuca, for LL tartarucha (fem. adj.) of Tartarus ( < Gk tartaroûcha), the tortoise being regarded as an infernal animal; ML form influenced by L tortus crooked, twisted (see TORT)]

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Any of some 40 species (family Testudinidae) of slow-moving, terrestrial, herbivorous turtles, found in the Old and New Worlds but chiefly in Africa and Madagascar.

Tortoises have a high, domed shell, heavy elephantlike hind legs, and hard-scaled forelegs. The four North American species (genus Gopherus) have a brown shell, about 8–14 in. (20–35 cm) long, and flattened forelimbs adapted for burrowing. The common, or European, tortoise (Testudo graeca) has a shell about 7–10 in. (18–25 cm) long. Most species of giant tortoises on the Galápagos and other islands are now rare or extinct. One captive Galápagos tortoise had a shell 4.25 ft (1.3 m) long and weighed 300 lbs (140 kg).

Galápagos tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus).

Francisco Erize-Bruce Coleman Ltd.

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   any member of the turtle family Testudinidae. Formerly, the term tortoise was used to refer to any terrestrial turtle. The testudinids are easily recognized because all share a unique hind-limb anatomy made up of elephantine (or cylindrical) hind limbs and hind feet; each digit in their forefeet and hind feet contains two or fewer phalanges. With the exception of the pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri), the shell is high-domed. Shells of some species are nearly spherical with a flattened base.

 Tortoises are exclusively terrestrial and occur on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. They also inhabit many islands, although numerous island populations and species are now extinct because of human occupation. There are at least 15 genera of living tortoises; one genus, Geochelone, is distributed from South America to Africa and Asia. There are about 49 species of tortoises, and they range in size from the padlopers (Homopus) of southern Africa, with shell lengths of 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches), to the giant tortoises (Geochelone) of the Aldabra (Aldabra Islands) and Galapagos Islands, with shells over 1 metre (3.3 feet) long. Tortoises live in a variety of habitats, from deserts (desert) to wet tropical forests (tropical rainforest). Most tortoises are vegetarians and eat foliage, flowers, and fruits; some tortoise species from moist forest habitats are more opportunistic and consume animal matter.

      Copulation (sex) can be a precarious issue for male tortoises, because they must balance themselves on the high-domed shell of females to fertilize them. The majority of tortoise species lay small clutches of eggs (egg), typically fewer than 20, and many small-bodied species lay fewer than 5. Even though tortoises possess columnar hind limbs and stubby hind feet, they dig their nests with alternating scooping movements of their hind limbs, like most other turtles.

George R. Zug
 

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tortoise — Tor toise, n. [OE. tortuce, fr. OF. tortis crooked, fr. L. tortus twisted, crooked, contorted, p. p. of torquere, tortum, to wind; cf. F. tortue tortoise, LL. tortuca, tartuca, Pr. tortesa crookedness, tortis crooked. so called in allusion to its …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tortoise — Datos generales Origen Chicago, Illinois, Estados Unidos …   Wikipedia Español

  • Tortoise — Жанр построк Годы 1990 по сей день Страна …   Википедия

  • TORTOISE — (Mod. Heb. צָב), a reptile. In Israel there are several species of both land and water tortoises; the latter lives in both sweet and salt water. Some commentators identify the צָב (ẓav), enumerated among the unclean reptiles (Lev. 11:29), with… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • tortoise — (n.) 1550s, altered (perhaps by influence of porpoise) from Middle English tortuse (late 15c.), tortuce (mid 15c.), tortuge (late 14c.), from M.L. tortuca (mid 13c.), perhaps from L.L. tartaruchus of the underworld (see TURTLE (Cf. turtle)).… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tortoise — [tôrt′əs] n. pl. tortoises or tortoise [ME tortuce < ML tortuca, altered (prob. by assoc. with L tortus, twisted) < VL * tartaruca < ? LGr tartarouchos, evil demon, orig., controlling Tartarus] a turtle, esp. one that lives on land, as… …   English World dictionary

  • tortoise — should be pronounced taw tǝs. The form taw toyz, with the second syllable like poise, is non standard …   Modern English usage

  • tortoise — ► NOUN ▪ a slow moving land reptile with a scaly or leathery domed shell into which it can retract its head and legs. ORIGIN Latin tortuca …   English terms dictionary

  • Tortoise — Taxobox name = Tortoises image width = 250px image caption = A Galápagos Giant Tortoise regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Reptilia ordo = Testudines subordo = Cryptodira superfamilia = Testudinoidea familia = Testudinidae subdivision… …   Wikipedia

  • Tortoise — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Tortoise (homonymie). Tortoise …   Wikipédia en Français

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