Tortoise Glossary Terms

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Glossary Terms:  A


A pus-filled cavity resulting from inflammation and usually caused by bacterial infection.  Often affecting the ears (tympanic membrane) in tortoises.


Of short duration; not chronic.


Physical and behavioural characteristics that have evolved over a period of time, in response to environment, which allows animals to survive and reproduce in their habitats

Aestivate (estivate):

Summer or dry season dormancy in response to harsh conditions such as drought or very high temperatures.  Not to be confused with hibernation.

African spurred tortoise:

Geochelone sulcata.

Agrionemys horsfieldii:

Horsfield tortoise/Russian tortoise (refer to relevant tortoise ID sections for species detail).  Also called Central Asian tortoise, Steppe tortoise, Four-toed tortoise, Afghan tortoise.  Formerly classified (and still referred to by some sources as Testudo horsfieldii. 

Aldabra tortoise:   

Dipsochelys dussumieri.  Formerly classified as Dipsochelys elephantina and Geochelone gigantea.


Sac-like receptacle which assists with respiration and waste management for the developing embryo.


Surrounding temperature; room air temperature.


The fluid filled sac enclosing the developing embryo.


An alcohol based hand rinse with amphoteric compounds and skin emollients, ideal where a high standard of hand hygiene is essential.


Relating to the anal region, the region around the outlet of the tortoises digestive tract; e.g. the anal suture of the plastron.

Angonoko tortoise:

Geochelone Yniphora, Ploughshare tortoise.

Anomaly, Anomalies:

Abnormalities or birth defects.


Lack of or no oxygen.  Anoxia is a condition characterised by an absence of oxygen supply to an organ or a tissue.  If the condition does not involve total oxygen deprivation, it is called hypoxia.


Towards the head/front of the animal.


Substance that is able to kill or inactivate bacteria in the body.  Antibiotics are derived from microorganisms, especially fungi, or are synthetically produced within the laboratory.


Lives in or mostly in water.


The central region of the scute.   May be marked or raised.


Used to describe a region in which annual rainfall is less than 25 cm.

Arid habitat:

The environment is of rocky or sandy substrate with low levels of humidity.  Tortoises originating from arid habitats succumb to respiratory problems if exposed to high levels of humidity and poor air circulation.

Arnold’s tortoise:

Dipsochelys Arnoldi.

Asian brown tortoise:

Manouria emys emys; Burmese brown mountain tortoise.


The inhaling of fluid into the lungs.


Loss of muscle co-ordination.


The right and left atria are chambers within the heart of the tortoise.


Relating to or near the armpit e.g. the axillary notches.




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