Golden Greek Tortoises
- profile -
Adult Golden Greek tortoise
Golden Greek tortoises
Golden Greeks are one of the newer pet tortoises. They have been offered for sale in the U.S. for about a decade or so. Their beautiful looks and friendly, "outgoing" personalities have made them popular. Captive bred Golden babies are available in increasing numbers.
The exact origin and species / subspecies of Golden Greeks has been somewhat of a mystery, but they are said to be native to the Eastern Mediterranean. They have been typically listed as Testudo graeca terrestris or Testudo graeca floweri. Per IUCN-TFTSG checklist, both of these subspecies are currently listed under the first one as Testudo graeca terrestris.
However, any yellowish colored Greek tortoise can be called a Golden Greek tortoise regardless of its subspecies. In captivity, Golden Greeks from various unknown origins have been bred with each other further blurring the actual species or subspecies of these animals.
The shell coloring of Greek tortoises is highly influenced by their native habitat. Yellow colored Greeks are thought to come from hot, sandy areas of the Middle East and possibly also from northeast Africa. Some Goldens are more yellow while others are more orange or peach colored depending on the color of their native soil (genetic, not dirty :O). Golden Greeks typically have a darker central dot on each scute, but some are almost patternless.
Most commonly, Golden Greek tortoises are listed as T.g. terrestris, but they can also be of other Greek tortoise subspecies. For example, Greeks from southern Turkey can be quite yellow in coloring. They have commonly been classified as T.g. ibera or T.g. antakyensis (now included in T.g. terrestris).
- Mesopotamian tortoise
- Testudo graeca terrestris (Forskål, 1775)
Synonyms (IUCN/SCC TFTSG checklist)
- Testudo terrestris
- Testudo floweri (flowerii)
- Testudo graeca anamurensis
- Testudo antakyensis
- Golden Greek tortoise
- Levantine Greek tortoise
- Jordanian Golden Greek
- Lebanese Golden Greek
- Syrian Golden Greek
- Middle Eastern Greek
T.g. terrestris vs T.g. floweri
Even though T. [graeca] floweri is now listed as a synonym for T. graeca terrestris per IUCN/SCC TFTSG checklist (1), there are said to be differences between the two.
T.g. floweri is described as being smaller, flatter, and more yellow than T.g. terrestris. It has a yellow head and a dark spot on the tail. The dark markings on the shell are crisp. Care for both is the same. (2)
- Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
- Egypt? (northeast Africa)
Baby Golden Greek tortoise. Just perfect!
Golden Greek tortoise hatchlings. In addition to the lovely coloring, they have the prettiest little faces. :O)
Color & pattern
- named after their beautiful yellow brown color
- shell color can be light brownish, yellowish, or orangish / peachish / pinkish
- some have almost no dark markings on their shells, some have only center dots on scutes, and others have more traditional looking dark Greek markings
- skin color can be brownish, yellowish, or peachish
- some T.g. terrestris have dark shells due to the dark soil of their native area (genetic, not dirty :O)
- hot, dry, sandy areas
- habitat similar to that of the Egyptian tortoise
- less than 10" adult size
- many only grow to 6"-7"
Male vs female
- females can grow twice as big as males
- adult females have flat plastrons, males slightly concave ones
- adult males have noticeably longer tails
- can be quite active
- good climbers and diggers
- personable, social, active, outgoing
- fun and entertaining pet tortoises
- IUCN / SCC TFTSG - International Union for Conservation of Nature / Species Survival Commission, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtles of the World, Checklist (1)
- World Chelonian Trust - What exactly is a Golden Greek? by Darrell Senneke & Torston Blanck, 2003 (2)