Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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Threatened Florida species
The range of gopher tortoises extends through the coastal plain from southwestern South Carolina into eastern Louisiana and through much of Florida, except for the Everglades and Florida Keys. They can be found in almost any upland habitat, although open longleaf pine sandhills and flatwoods appear to be the most suitable.
The shell is typically 25-30 cm (10-12 in.) in length, but can get as long as 40 cm (16 in.). Gopherus polyphemus can live as long as 40 to 60 years. The upper shell(carapace) is brown to tan, with a relatively flat top. The lower shell(plastron) is unhinged and projects out in front, especially in the males. The males often have a somewhat concave plastron. Forelimbs are more developed, heavily scaled, with webless toes suitable for digging. The smaller, stumpy hindlimbs have an elephantine form.
Threats include loss of dry upland habitat from development and suppression of the natural cycle of wildfires, leading to overgrowth of the understory. Gopher tortoises dig extensive burrows, often 12 m (40 ft.) long, for shelter. Over 360 other animal species utilize the burrows of the gopher tortoise and some, such as the Florida mouse, cannot exist without the tortoise burrow.
For more information on this species, visit the following link:
Gopher Tortoise Council
Date record last modified:
Jan 15, 2015