Lifecycle of the Desert Tortoise

LIFECYCLE OF THE DESERT TORTOISE





MATING MAY OCCUR ANYTIME
AFTER EMERGENCE FROM HIBERNATION IN MARCH
UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF HIBERNATION IN OCTOBER.
MOST MATING ACTIVITY IS IN THE SPRING.


BETWEEN MAY AND JULY THE FEMALE USUALLY DIGS A NEST AT A BURROW ENTRANCE OR NEAR A SHRUB. SHE CAREFULLY DEPOSITS 1-14 EGGS. THE EGGS RESEMBLE PING-PONG BALLS


INCUBATING FOR 70 TO 120 DAYS, THE HATCHLINGS BREAK OUT OF THE SHELL USING AN EGG TOOTH. THE YOLK SAC PROVIDES NOURISHMENT EVEN AFTER HATCHING.

AFTER


HATCHLINGS ARE ABOUT THE SIZE OF SILVER DOLLARS. THEIR SHELLS ARE SOFT AND COMPOSED MOSTLY OF SCUTES. FEMALE TORTOISES DO NOT PROVIDE CARE FOR THEIR YOUNG. ONLY 1 TO 5 OUT OF EVERY 100 HATCHLINGS WILL SURVIVE TO ADULTHOOD.


GROWTH IS SLOW IN THE WILD. AS A TORTOISE GROWS, BONE DEVELOPS UNDER THE LAYER OF SCUTES. BY THE TIME THE TORTOISE IS 5 YEARS OLD THE BONE IS WELL DEVELOPED AND THE SHELL IS HARD. TORTOISES MAY LIVE TO BE 60 TO 100 YEARS OLD.


THE TORTOISE SHELL HAS TWO LAYERS WITH A LAYER OF SCUTES OVER A LAYER OF BONE. IN THE WILD, SEXUAL MATURITY IS REACHED BETWEEN 14-20 YEARS.

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