Tortoise Glossary Terms

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Glossary Terms:  B


Vertebral column or spine.  In tortoises the backbone is fused to the shell, along with the ribs, shoulder blades, and pelvis.


Microscopic, single-celled organisms, some of which cause infections and disease in animals and humans.


To lie in a warm area, as under a heat lamp or in the sun, in order to absorb heat.


Behaviour by the reptile designed to gain maximum absorption of heat from the sun.  Often involves positioning on slopes.

Basking light:   

A light or overhead heating element that produces an area of higher heat in an enclosure, required by the reptile for digestion.

Basking spot:   

Area of the enclosure kept warmer with the use of a heating element to allow the reptile to thermoregulate.


A trade name for the drug enrofloxacin which is a member of the antibacterial group, the fluoroquinolones.  Often used in tortoises to treat Runny nose syndrome (RNS).  Leopard tortoises and Cape angulated tortoises can be allergic to this drug.


The horny outer covering of the jaws.


The way the reptile responds to a certain set of conditions e.g. pre-nesting behaviour, thermoregulatory behaviour and aggression.

Bells Hinged tortoise/Bellís Hinge-back tortoise:   

Kinixys belliana.


A povidone-iodine solution which is a consumer-available antiseptic and also a strong broad-spectrum topical microbicide.  Most solutions are 10% povidone-iodine and it should be diluted to a volume of 10 parts water to 1 part betadine to treat minor cuts and injuries on reptiles e.g. minor shell injuries.

Bioclimatic range:   

The forces of temperature and humidity, among other factors, which influence distribution of a species.


Term used to describe non-simultaneous hatching.


A storage container for water.  Water passes through the bladder wall into the tortoise's system when needed. For this reason the tortoise holds that water until there is fresh water to drink.  The bladder also holds urine which is eliminated periodically via the cloaca.  It acts as a regulatory mechanism for reptiles fluid and electrolyte balance.

Bladder stones:   

Formed primarily from uric acid, bladder stones (calculi) are a result of microclimate deprivation, improper diet, and lack of availability of fresh drinking water, and can cause mortality, especially in hatchling tortoises.

Body temperature:   

The interior rather than exterior surface temperature of the body.  Usually measured via the cloaca.

Bolsonís tortoise:   

Gopherus flavomarginatus.

Bony plate:   


Bowsprit tortoise:

Chersina angulata.

Brazilian tortoise:   

Testudo tabulate.


Raised in a particular manner.


A strain of a reptileís identifiable characteristics that distinguishes it from other members of its species.


A semi-hibernation state, induced by cool temperatures, in which a tortoise sleeps a majority of the time and eats very little.


Relating to the mouth.


Tortoises kept indoors require light, heat, and UVB, and these are provided by a variety of electric bulbs.  Also:  Many plants originating from bulbs are toxic to tortoises, e.g. daffodils.  See toxic plants.

Burmese mountain tortoise: 

Manouria emys.

Burmese black mountain tortoise:   

Manouria emys phayrei.  Subspecies of the Manouria emys.

Burmese brown tortoise:   

Manouria emys emys; Manouria emys phayrei.  Subspecies of the Manouria emys.

Burmese star tortoise:   

Geochelone platynota.


To dig underground for shelter or for the purpose of concealment or hunting for food. The tunnel created by a burrowing animal.



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