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Desert Tortoise | California Living Museum

Animals

Desert Tortoise

  • Tortoises have several adaptations for digging: forelimbs that are flattened and covered with thick scales, columnar hind limbs, and short heavy toes with thick nails. Their head, tail and limbs partially retract into the shell. Tortoises cannot come out of their shell. They burrow in the winter and hibernate until spring. They are harmless and endangered.

    Tortoises are vegetarians that eat flowers, fruits, leaves and stems of low-growing plants including cactus. Tortoises can go for long periods of time without drinking water as they are able to metabolize water from their foods.

    Our state reptile, the desert tortoise is mostly restricted to deserts and arid lands such as the Mojave Desert and Sonoran Desert. It is limited to sandy soils where it digs extensive burrows for protection and nesting. Tortoises are important to their communities since their burrows provide shelter for other species.

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