Angulate tortoise on the chase

Trending at the moment are the angulate tortoise; it’s mating season and they’re defending their patch against competitors.  Truculence is a good descriptive fit for the males sweeping their territory.  I was amused to find that as I crossed through one gutsy male’s area he came dashing over to investigate.Angulate tortoise on the beat.

The males have neck long plates with which they flip their rivals and watching the chase, endurance and stamina come into play.  One stumble and the game is over.

Angulate tortoise_The chase is on Anugulate tortoise _ the flip

The loser once flipped has no means of righting itself and will die a slow death.Angulate tortoise_vanquished

We’re noting that there is activity in the area which was affected by the fire last March in the Cape Point reserve.  Good to see that they’re making a comeback – even though their shells are charred, they’re in feisty fettle.

Angulate tortoise with charred shell.

The leopard tortoise: the close-up details

All terrain treads

Follow the link to Brie Anne’s macro photography challenge  ….  ” allows us to see the world in a new light. Some of the best macro subjects may appear mundane at first — things you’d normally pass by without giving a second glance — but get just a little closer and there’s often a hidden beauty to be discovered.”

It's all in the detail.

See the close-up details of a leopard tortoise and admire it’s rugged build.


The Season of the Duelling Tortoise

Some weeks a species will be more visible than usual and activity is trending in the reptile sector:  tortoise jousting!  We are fortunate to have eight out of the thirteen tortoise species endemic to South Africa, in the Western Cape.  The coastal variety, the angulate (Chersina angulata) is the most active, and the males have the dubious reputation for being the most truculent.  They engage in lengthy bouts of combat and use the enlarged shields beneath their necks to flip their opponents onto their backs.  Meanwhile the wiley females lurk as spectators in close distance to claim he who triumphs.  The confrontations can be quite brutal, rather like a game of dodgem cars, a fierce clashing of carapace, bashing and flipping motions.

Asserting territorial rights, the strongest get the females.
Asserting territorial rights, the strongest get the females.

Note the protruding neck plate – used in the ‘flipping’ tactic to get the loser onto his back.  If the loser is unable to right itself, and turn back upright, it’s a long, slow death.

Here, another species – leopard or mountain (Geochelone pardalis) tortoise set to in a challenge match –

Throwing down the gauntlet.
Throwing down the gauntlet.
The chase is on.
The chase is on.

Somehow there is a kind of reverence to this bullishness.  Tortoises are of that ancient group, the Chelonians, (Order Chelonii) and have remained almost unchanged since evolving in the early Triassic period, 210 million years ago. Their defensive structures, the shell and their amazing tread-like skin make for strong, impenetrable armour.

Take a look at a close up of “Hefty George” –

Meet Hefty George, he's an old loner.
George, the loner.
No teeth in this species, they have horny beaks, similar to that of parrots.
No teeth in this species, they have horny beaks, similar to that of parrots.

One of the popular bushtales from the Addo Elephant Park is that of a legendary mountain tortoise of enormous strength,  dubbed “Domkrag” (carjack).  He endorsed his reputation of Herculean strength by trying to flip stationary cars defending territorial rights on his stretch of the road.  He was of a ripe old age, but apparently met an ignominious death by falling down an aardvark’s burrow.