Tortoises We see giant tortoises in the zoo and we know that many people keep tortoises as pets, even the bigger breeds. When we hear about the history or tortoises, we seem to realize that these are extremely ancient animals which have existed long before the humans that keep them captive and will likely be here long after we’re gone. This detail alone makes the tortoise such a fascinating animal to study and observe. Nowadays, we know that they feel at home both on land and in water, for the most part. We know what they look like: stubby legs, slow-moving, hard shell, etc.. But what have tortoises really been through in their countless years in existence? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s begin at the beginning. During the times of evolution, tortoises were one of the species that partly made their way out of the water and moved back and forth between land and sea during their development. Exclusively marine tortoises went extinct about 200 million years ago but the traces of turtles as we know it stay. During the Triassic Period, we see the body of the tortoise take its familiar form. From here on out, the body remains largely unchanged. Although the evolution of the turtle may be an easy one to follow, unlike the snake for example, there are still missing links and the expected gigantism of most prehistoric animals during the mesozoic and cenozoic eras. Can you imagine a giant tortoise roaming around, eating both giant plants? Paleontologists can not seem to pinpoint the exact prehistoric family that contemporary turtles evolved out of, but they can state with confidence that it wasn’t the placodonts, as was previously considered. Historically, tortoises have had an influence in certain religions. In Hinduism, Vishnu is half-man, half-tortoise and sat at the bottom of the sea floor after a excellent mythical flood. Today, you can find tortoises living in different parts of the world, growing to different sizes and showing different colours and patterns. The Galapagos Islands are home to giant tortoises and are said to have arrived there about 3 million years ago. Among the most impressive things about these turtles is their capability to survive without food or water for up to a year. Unfortunately, this could not save the majority of the populace from near extinction. Whalers and buccaneers saved them as food on long voyages, and they have been used for their oil to light bulbs. Now, only about 25,000 wild tortoises live on the islands. Fortunately, there are conservation efforts to preserve these herbivores from human intervention and other things that have added to their decline. In the U.S. people are usually fond of tortoises. Many see them as a the perfect pet because they’re relatively low maintenance. They hibernate in the winter until around April, eat a routine and simple diet, and do not really need any training or walking. Caring for a tortoise is usually highlighted by having the right environment and diet. It’s been observed that they like human contact, although they’re not very social animals. If they are kept with other tortoises, they can get competitive but not with any major injuries. They like to burrow and will try to dig under any walls or fences so make certain to secure any enclosure. You may get a tortoise for sale just about anywhere nowadays. You will find popular tortoises, like the Russian Tortoise and the Red Footed Tortoise, available in exotic pet shops and can also be found on the internet. Before buying a tortoise, make certain to research the breed and its specific needs regarding lighting, temperature, and habitat. Knowing the evolution and history of tortoises, doesn’t mean you know everything about modern tortoises. Educate yourself about how to care for a tortoise properly so you can ensure you’re all set to handle the responsibility that comes with owning this ancient creature.