Testudo hermanni

Gmelin, 1789
Hermann's tortoise

The rounded carapace (to 20 cm) is domed, highest behind the center, with abruptly descending sides, a slight cervical notch, and the posterior rim downturned and slightly serrated. A long narrow cervical scute is present. Vertebrals are broader than long; the 5th is expanded. Vertebral and pleural areolae are sometimes raised and surrounded by growth annuli, giving the shell a lumpy appearance. The carapace is variable in color, ranging from yellow, olive, or orange to dark brown; lighter individuals contain variable amounts of dark blotching. The plastron is well-developed with a forelobe that is slightly upturned, tapered toward the front, and shorter and narrower than the hindlobe. The hindlobe bears a posterior notch. The plastral formula is: abd > hum > an >< gul > fem > pect; the paired gulars are thickened, but extend only slightly past the carapacial rim. The yellow bridge is broad, with a small axillary and small inguinal scute (which may be absent) that does not touch the femoral. The plastron is dark brown or black with a yellow border and midseam. The head is moderate in size with a nonprotruding snout and a hooked upper jaw. Its large prefrontal and frontal scales may be longitudinally divided or subdivided; other head scales are small. The head is brown or black; the chin may be lighter in color. Five to ten longitudinal rows of small, nonoverlapping scales lie on the anterior surface of each foreleg. The large scales on the heel are not greatly elongated, and there are no tubercles on the thighs. The tail has a large terminal scale.
Diploid chromosomes total 52 (Stock, 1972).
Males have longer, thicker tails with the vent near the tip.

Testudo hermanni ranges across southern Europe from northeastern Spain to Romania and European Turkey. It also lives on the Ionian Islands, Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Elba, Pianosa, and Sicily.

Geographic Variation
Two subspecies are recognized. The western Hermann's tortoise Testudo hermanni hermanni Gmelin, 1789 lives in northwestern Italy, southern France, northeastern Spain, and on the Balearic Islands, Corsica, and Sardinia. It is small (males 14 cm, females 16.5 cm), high domed, brightly colored with contrasting areas of yellow and black, and has a bright spot behind and beneath each eye. Testudo hermanni robertmertensi Wermuth, 1952 is considered a synonym of T. h. hermanni. T. h. boettgeri Mojsisovics, 1889, the eastern Hermann's tortoise, is found in western Turkey, Bulgaria, southern Romania, former Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, southern Italy and Sicily. It has a long (males 19 cm, females 20 cm), flat, dull-colored carapace, and lacks a light spot behind and beneath each eye.

Testudo hermanni seems to favor evergreen Mediterranean oak forest, the climax vegetation of the region (Stubbs, 1989a), but since much of this vegetation has disappeared, it also occurs in a variety of dry meadows, arid scrub hullsides, rocky slopes, and farmland (Testudo h. hermanni biotope). Moist places are usually avoided.

Natural History
In France, males mature at about 12 cm carapace length; in Greece a length of 13 cm must be reached (Stubbs, 1989a). Females mature at abour 15 cm in both populations, and the age of maturity in both sexes is abour 12 years.
Although courtship and mating do occur in the spring after the tortoises have emerged from hibernation, most mating activity is in late summer. Early mating is thought to offer a competitive advantage since females can store sperm for many months (Stubbs, 1989a). Aggression may occur between rival males, especially during the breeding season, resulting in ramming contests. During courtship the male pursues the female, rams her shell, and bites at her head and legs. The well-developed horny scale at the end of the tail is unique to T. hermanni, and is used repeatedly to stimulate the female's cloacal region prior to copulation. While mounted, males often emit squeaklike grunts.
Nesting occurs from mid-May to July, and the flask-shaped nests are 7-8 cm deep. Two to 12 eggs may be laid in a clutch; the average clutch in France contains three eggs, in Greece clutches average 4-5 eggs. Most females lay more than one clutch per season at intervals of up to 20 days (Stubbs, 1989a). Eggs are pinkish white, and elongated to spherical (28-35 x 21-26 mm) with brittle shells. Incubation takes about 90 days and the young emerge after the first autumn rains in early September; they spend the first 4-5 years within a few meters of where they hatched (Stubbs, 1989a). Hatchlings have rounded gray-brown or black and yellow carapaces (31-33 mm).
Although it feeds on a variety of plants, it seems to prefer legumes (beans, clovers, lupines), which formed 90% of the foods taken by tortoises examined by Meek and Inskeep (1981). Ranunculaceae (buttercups, etc.) amounted to 7% and Graminaceae (grasses) 3% of their sample. Animal foods sometimes eaten include earthworms, snails, slugs, insects, carrion, and faeces. Most feeding is done in the late afternoon and evening. Testudo hermanni hibernates from November to early march or April.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Lower risk: near threatened.