Chordates •

Red-footed tortoise

(Chelonoidis carbonarius)


The red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonarius) is a species of tortoise from northern South America. These medium-sized tortoises generally average 30 cm (12 in) as adults, but can reach over 40 cm (16 in). They have dark-colored, loaf-shaped carapaces (back shell) with a lighter patch in the middle of each scute (scales on the shell), and dark limbs with brightly colored scales that range from pale yellow to dark red. Recognized differences are seen between red-footed tortoises from different regions. They are closely related to the yellow-footed tortoise (C. denticulatus) from the Amazon Basin. They are popularly kept as pets, and over-collection has caused them to be vulnerable to extinction.The species name has often been misspelled as carbonaria, an error introduced in the 1980s when Chelonoidis was elevated to genus and mistakenly treated as feminine, an error recognized and fixed in 2017. Their natural habitat ranges from savannah to forest edges around the Amazon Basin. They are omnivorous with a diet based on a wide assortment of plants, mostly fruit when available, but also including grasses, flowers, fungi, carrion, and invertebrates. They do not brumate, but may aestivate in hot, dry weather. Eggs, hatchlings, and juvenile tortoises are food for many predators, but the main threats for adults are jaguars and humans. Population density ranges from locally common to very scarce due in part to habitat destruction and over-collection for food and the pet trade. Red-footed tortoises show sex, regional, and individual variations in color, shell shape, and minor anatomical characteristics. Adult carapaces are generally an elongated oval with sides that are nearly parallel, although the sides of males may curve inwards. They are fairly highly domed and smooth with a rather flat back (although the scutes may be raised or 'pyramided' in some individuals, especially captive specimens). Often, a high point over the hips is seen, with a small sloped section over the neck. The vertebral and costal scutes (the scutes along the center and sides of the carapace) are black or dark brown with a pale yellow areole in the center. The marginals (scutes along the edge of the carapace) 'tuck under' along the sides and flare slightly over the limbs. They are dark with the pale aureole along the middle of the lower edge. The nuchal scute (the marginal over the neck) is absent, and the marginals over the tail are joined as one large supracaudal.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
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