How long do they live? Like most tortoises, there’s no direct answer. Some have lived in captivity for up to 127 years [1] and a few articles mention evidence of one being 200 years old, but I could not track down a source for this claim.

Where are they found at? The spur-thighed tortoise can be found from West Asia, North Africa, to the Mediterranean [2]. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. The range of the spur-thighed tortoise.

What do they look like? A lot like a tortoise with spurs on its thighs. They grow to be around 5 to 8 inches long and similar to all tortoise species they are heart melting adorable. See Figures 2, 3 and 4.

Figure 2. This little tortoise makes the plant look gigantic.
Figure 3. Just so cute.
Figure 4. There’s really no reason for this third picture other than it’s charming.

What do they eat? They are herbivores (vegetarians) that seem to prefer munching on flowers, but the random snail or insect may get eaten accidentally.

How do scientists know how old they are? They must know the date of hatching since growth rings are not all that reliable. In other words, you may see one in the wild that is 120 years old, but there’s no way to really know.

How do they reproduce? By sexual reproduction between a male and female. The female can lay multiple clutches of eggs with only one mating, but sexual maturity ages for male and females are unknown [3].

So what are we lacking? When do these long-lived tortoises reach sexual maturity or stop reproducing (if they stop)? No nuclear genome information is on NCBI, but the complete mitochondrial genome is available here.

Conservation status: Vulnerable [2]. Major threats being us and our contribution to habitat destruction. Oh and folks removing them from the wild to sell as pets, which is illegal and an awful practice, so stop it people.

Please contact me if you any information about how these adorable creatures avoid the sands of time. Also, any information about their genome would be greatly appreciated.


  1. Encyclopedia of Life. Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise.  Accessed 9/17/2016.
  2. The IUCN Red List. Accessed 9/17/2016.
  3. The Tortoise Trust. Accessed 9/17/2016.