Testudo weissingeri

Bour, 1995
Peloponnese tortoise

This tortoise is a smaller version of Testudo marginata. Roger Bour (pers. comm.) measured a maximum carapace length of 26.5 cm; Artner (1996b) recorded a male 27.2 cm long. The carapace is elongated, only slightly domed, and highest just behind the center with abruptly descending sides, a weak cervical notch, and a moderately flared, slightly serrated posterior rim. Some specimens have a more flattened shell, and a considerable number of individuals—even males—do not have elongated, flared supracaudals (Roger Bour, pers. comm.). A narrow cervical is present, and all vertebrals are broader than long with the fifth expanded laterally. Areolae of the vertebral and pleural scutes may be slightly raised and surrounded with growth annuli. Each side of the carapace normally has 11 marginals. The carapace is dull brown or blackish with grayish-yellow or horn-colored patches flecked with gray. Old individuals may attain an almost completely yellowish shell, a color variation not found in T. marginata (Reimann, in Artner, 1996b). The plastron is well-developed, with an upturned, anteriorly tapering forelobe and a shorter, narrower hindlobe that is posteriorly notched. The plastral formula is abd > an >< hum >< pect >< fem > gul. The paired gulars are thickened and may project slightly beyond the carapacial rim. A single axillary and 1-2 inguinal scutes, which may contact the femoral scute, are present on the broad bridge. Plastron and bridge are yellowish with two longitudinal rows of mostly triangular blotches. The head is of moderate size with a nonprojecting snout and a hooked upper jaw. Its large prefrontal and frontal scales are commonly undivided; other head scales are small. The head is brownish to blackish, the chin yellow or gray, and the jaws black or brown. Limbs are dull brown to yellowish brown. Four or five longitudinal rows of large overlapping scales lie on the anterior surface of each foreleg; each forefoot has five claws. Spurlike scales occur on each heel, and weak but distinct, isolated tubercles may be present on the thighs. The tail lacks a terminal claw. Males have more concave plastra and longer, thicker tails with the vent near the tip, and a wider head.

Testudo weissingeri is restricted to a small area in southern Peloponnese, Greece, on the western side of the Taygetos Mountain between Kalamata (Messenia) and Areopolis (Laconia).

Geographic Variation
Unknown, but two 'ecological' morphotypes may be recognized. One lives in shrubby areas and looks like a dwarfed T. marginata. The other lives in more open limestone areas, where it can dig deep burrows; it shows a flatter and stockier shell, with a shorter marginal rim (Roger Bour, pers. comm.).

This species is found in dry scrub woodlands, phrygana, and olive groves, often on hillsides (up to ca. 600 m), down to the seaside.

Natural History
In suitable areas the tortoises dig deep burrows up to 3 m in length in which they aestivate in the hottest months of summer. This species is active in winter except for the coldest days of December and January, which are spent in the burrow. During dry weather, they often fall victim to brush and grass fires. Courtship and mating, accompanied with much male combat, occur in late-March (Artner, 1996b) and regularly in October, but not in April-May (Bour, 1995; pers. comm.). Females typically lay a clutch of 2-4, 31-36 x 28-32 mm eggs. Winter (in Artner, 1996b) reported a maximum clutch size of 6 eggs, deposited in May, at the edge of a dried-out riverbank. Incubation at 30°C takes 57-64 days, and hatchlings have 35-42 mm carapaces (Bour, 1995).
A herbivore, it consumes grasses, herbs, flowers and fruits, but is particularly fond of the sea squill, Urginea maritima.

Bour (1995) reported that where T. weissingeri and T. marginata are sympatric in the north no intergradation occurs, while occasionally interbreeding occurs in the southern portion of the range. Because of the limited gene exchange, Bour was led to conclude that the two tortoises represent separate species, pending further genetical studies.
In spite of this, several authorities consider T. weissingeri to be merely a subspecies of T. marginata, whereas others deny any taxonomical identity for this population.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Not included?