Tortoise Glossary Terms

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Glossary Terms:  M

Malacochersus tornieri:   

Pancake tortoise.


Abnormality in the shape or structure of something.


Lower jaw.

Manouria emys emys:   

Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise/Asian Brown tortoise.

Manouria emys phayrei:   

Burmese black mountain tortoise/ Burmese forest tortoise.

Manouria impressa:    

Impressed tortoise.

Marginal Scutes:   

The series of smaller scutes at the very edge of the carapace.  Usually 11 on each side in most species.


See Testudo marginata.

Marginated tortoise:   

See Testudo marginata.


Upper jaw.

Medial (Median): 

Toward the midline (centre) of the body.

Mediterranean tortoises:   

Includes the following:  Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni), Marginated tortoise, (Testudo marginata), Horsfield tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii), and the Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni).


Having a darker or blacker pigmentation than normal.

Mercury vapour lamp:   

A lamp in which ultraviolet and yellowish-green to blue visible light is produced by an electric discharge through mercury vapour.  Used as a combined UVB/heat lamp in tortoise keeping.  See lighting.

Metabolic bone disease (MBD):   

A disease commonly seen in tortoises that affects bone development resulting in malformed bones.  It is normally caused by dietary or vitamin deficiencies.  It is a cause of early mortality in captive bred hatchlings.  Sometimes it is referred to as ‘soft shell syndrome’.


The chemical or energy changes which occur within an animal necessary to sustain life.
Mexican tortoise:    Geochelone flavomarginatus (refer to tortoise ID section for species detail).


The climate immediately surrounding an animal which may be very different to the general climate in the case of burrowing tortoises.  Microclimates are used by many tortoises to sustain themselves in otherwise unfavourable environments, and to regulate body temperature and water balance.


The bacterial colonies found in the large intestine. These bacteria are important for proper digestion and faecal excretion of waste products.

Middle eastern spur-thighed tortoise:   Testudo graeca terrestris (refer to tortoise ID section for species detail).


Substance that occurs naturally in rocks and in the ground and has its own characteristic appearance and chemical composition and act as regulators and construction material.  Calcium forms a major part of the tortoise’s body, and calcium and phosphorus account for three-quarters of the mineral elements in the body (see entries on Calcium, Calcium Carbonate, and Phosphorus).  Other trace elements present in body tissues include chlorine, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfur.  Iron, copper, and fluorine are also present in lesser quantities but are essential for good health.

Mineral supplements:   

Usually combined with vitamins in a powder or liquid form in products such as Nutrobal or Reptivite to add necessary vitamins and minerals to a tortoise’s diet.


The study of the form or shape of an organism or part thereof.

Mouth rot:   

See stomatitis. 




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