Sunday, 4 January 2015

The topsy-turvy world of the tortoise: a smaller shell helps them to walk tall

Sunday 04 January 2015

When it comes to housing, every little helps. And for a tortoise, the bigger the shell, the larger the animal, and the more able the fiercely territorial land-dwelling turtle is able to fight off rivals. Predators, droughts and even food shortages can be kept at bay. This accepted evolutionary narrative has been turned on its head, however, with the revelation that larger tortoises are less adept at righting themselves when they are flipped on to their backs.

Scientists have long known that if you upturn a tortoise, it will find its feet again, thanks to a clever combination of shell shape and leg and neck manoeuvres, but according to a new study, larger Hermann tortoises found in the Mediterranean are less capable of finding their feet than their smaller, more nimble relatives.

Self-righting is a serious business for armoured animals, including ocean-going turtles and cockroaches, because they often spend time in rocky areas and are liable to get stuck on their backs, legs flailing. However, it's an even deadlier matter for the Hermann tortoise, which is often overturned by belligerent males during fights over breeding grounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails