SCIENTIFIC NAME: Gopherus agassizii
HOUSE NAME: "Mojave" & "Sahara"
HABITAT: Semi-arid grasslands, desert areas, of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
CONSERVATION STATUS: Critically Endangered
Adult tortoises get most of their water from moisture in the plants that they eat. They can survive without access to water for a year or longer. When they have free access to water, they can drink more than 40% of their body weight in approximately an hour.
Grasses, some shrubs, and the new growth of cacti and their flowers; also annual flowers, when available.
The desert tortoise is a medium-sized tortoise with a high-domed shell. The shell can be light or very dark brown, and the center of each scute is usually yellowish. The eyes are greenish-yellow. The skin is dry and scaly, with enlarged, armor-like scales on exposed parts of the legs. Their legs are short and elephantine, and the front legs are flattened as an adaptation for digging. They have short, strong claws. Both sexes have a gular horn – an extension of the plastron below the neck. Males have a longer horn than females, and also have a longer, thicker tail. The male’s plastron is slightly concave. Adult desert tortoises grow to 11-16 inches in carapace length, and can weigh 10 pounds or more. Males are larger than females.