Animal: Tortoise
Biome: Desert

Why This Animal?
I have been interested in tortoises (or turtles) since I was young. When I was seven years old i got two turtles as my pets. They were very cool and really easy to take care of. Especially during the winter because they hibernate. They are also really cool because unlike most animals they can live as long as you can or even longer.
In the wild they are prey to a lot of animals, so they need to protect themselves. That's why they have a shell which they can retract into when there is danger nearby. Their shell is really cool because it sort of acts as their portable home. It's strong enough to protect them but light enough for them to carry it. Except their shell is one of the main reasons why they are so slow. This is good though because it make them really easy to observe.

Tortoise Food Web


Tortoise in the desert biome

The desert biome where a tortoise lives is very hot and dry. Temperatures in a desert vary from day to night. In the day time it can get up to 100 degrees and at nightime go below freezing. Deserts make up about 1/5 of the Earth’s land mass. Deserts are mostly spread out around the world but a lot of them are close to the equator.
The desert’s climate make it hard for plants to grow there. Most of the plants that live there are shrubs or short trees which can store water for long periods of time. The average precipitation is small with an average usually under 15 cm. Most animals that live in a desert have to get shelter by burrowing into the ground.
The tortoise has a rough time trying to survive in the desert. It has to adapt to find shelter by burrowing into the ground. It has to fight for its food because of animals such as the desert goat searches for the same type of food. The tortoise also has a lot of predators that it has to deal with. Animals such as bobcat or foxes hunt animals such as tortoises. Luckily the turtle has a shell that can protect it from certain animals.

Observation Journal


As I finally reached my destination it gave me a sigh of relief. Traveling through the desert is very hot and exhausting. I finally spotted what I was looking for, a desert tortoise. It looked like it was just waking up from its slumber inside of its burrow. It slowly marched over to a small oasis where stood there and took a drink. It seemed not to move for a while until it scavenged around looking fo food.

I noticed that once it reached its destination it would stay there for a while. It seemed not to pay very much attention to the other animals nearby. It was mmore than willing to share some of the food it found with other animals. Sometimes the other animals wouldn't eat all their food which allowed the tortoise some extra food. It swam around lazily in the water for a while. The water seemed to be its favorite place to go. Then seemed to go back into its burrow to sleep some more.


As I woke up from sleeping I noticed that the tortoise was already up. This suprise me considering how much they love to dose off during the day and night. Of course it wasn't hard to find considering it seems to always be near the water. It seemed even hotter today than it was yesterday.

It seemed like the exact same stuff was happening today until the turtle tuck back into its shell as if something dangerous was nearby. Sure enough, you could barely see out into the distance what looked like a coyote. These of course are one of the tortoises many predators. The coyote seemed to only stay for a minute or two until it was completely out of sight. By this time the tortoise was inside of its burrow and it didn't look like it was going to come out of it for a while.

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After yesteray it seems like the tortoise doesn't do very much on a day-to-day basis. It mainly just does three things every day which are sleeping, eating, and swimming/drinking. The tortoise would stop for long periods at a time and hardly move. Its shell was a portable home that the tortoise could carry around everywhere it went. The tortoise's body was very dirty, while its shell was dark blue and had a tessellation type pattern on the front.

The toroise could stay underwater for very long periods of time. Sometimes it would go in for what seemed like hours. You would think it might drown but everytime its head eventually breaks the surface of the water. A tortoise's life is very simple as are its daily actions. It doesn't have to worry about much because for now it has plenty of resources it can use if it needs them.


The tortoise has to constantly be watching out for predators in the desert. Its predator relationship with the kit fox was shown today when a confrontation almost emerged. The tortoise was doing the same thing it always did until, what seemed out of nowhere, a kit fox was scavenging around. Luckily the tortoise was underwater already and nowhere to be seen. It just shrank into its shell silently and never once moved.

The fox kept on searching until it found a rabbit that was hiding in the tall grass. It sprang out to try and escape, but the fox was too fast. In no time the rabbit was inside the fox's mouth and soon dead. The fox seemed to be content with what it found and eventually venture out towards the horizon. The tortoise was still inside the lake after everything that took place.


I have one last day to continue my research on the tortoise. It is hotter than it has been all week and i wonder how the tortoise stays cool. I could hypothesise that the shell reflects some of the sunlight, but mostly the tortoise stuck to its burrow underground where it is cool and sunlight can't creep inside.refreshing water. If it's underground it might be eating, but it is mostly in the cool and refreshing water. These are definately habits that the tortoise has adopted to stay alive in the desert biome.

Since it was my last day on the job I decided to finaly interact with the tortoise. I went up cautsiouly to it at first not to startle it. It didn't seem to notic me at first and just stayed the same way it was before. I took a few picture of it before I gently touched its shell. I said farewell to it (even though it couldn't understand me) and decided to head back home with the research I gathered.

Wildlife Monitoring Technique

Tortoises are very slow animals so they don't move around a whole lot. This means that you don't have to constantly know where they are and what they are doing. The perfect technique for this is tag and release. This is a technique where you put a tag on an animal which has the date,time, and location where the animal is at. You then release the animal into the wild and see what happens.

When someone finds this animal they would report back to the people, who put the tag on it, and tell them its location. This could then show habits of the tortoise, how many places they visit, and how many times they visit one place. For instance you could learn that a tortoise will almost always go to a place where there is water because it show up in a certain place so many times. If you tag a bunch of tortoises you can see if they travel in a group to the same place or if they go separately. You can see if tortoises have common interests with one another.

Using The Research

Despite all the predators that would love to munch on the desert tortoise, the desert tortoise is listed as vulnerable. One of their limiting factors is the soil in their environment. If it is not soft enough to di a burrow, the desert tortoise could die of heat. Sometimes vehichles that do not not follow highways can be a serious threat to the desert tortoise. They can either run over the tortoise themselves or run over the a burrow with a tortoise inside.

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(Tortoise chilling underground)

The desert tortoise's limiting factors can be very different from each other. Different diseases can be the cause of many tortoises dying. Diseases are usually started when owners of sick tortoises release them into the wild. Suprisingly trash is a danger to the desert tortoise. The tortoise can mistake trash for food and eat, the trash will then stay in their stomach making them think they are full. This can lead them to starvation because they are never hungry.

A lot of the reasons most of this stuff happens is because of humans. When humans drive off-road, poach, leave their trash around, or even release sick tortoises into the wild, it all decreases the desert tortoise's population. Their population was so low that it was almost considered endangered in 1989. Luckily a group of people stepped in and were able to bring up their population to just threatened. Since then it has climbed even higher and hopefully keeps climbing in the future.

Fellow Researcher Profile

One researcher I found interesting is Michael Russello. What made me interested in him was one of his greatest discoveries. Him and his research team had discovered a giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands that had been thought to have been extinct for over 100 years. These tortoises are unique because of their size and great neck length. Because of this discovery it allowed scientists to find out more about there tortoises and bring their population up.

He is interested in how species adapt to environmental changes. I sometimes wonder about this too because sometimes it is interesting to see if they change physically or a change of actions. He looks for how living in a different environment could affect an animals life. He visits many different places on earth to see how the environments work in different place. I got a lot of good information from some of his sites and found out some interesting stuff.

Works Cited

"Desert Biomes." Blue Planet Biomes. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <>.

"Desert Tortoise." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <>.

"Desert Tortoise Wildlife Information - DesertUSA." Desert Biomes by DesertUSA. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <>.

"Endangered Species International." Endangered Species International. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <>.

Russello, Michael. "Michael A. Russello, PhD." Feb. 2010. Web.