Tortoises not just found in the valley
pragmatic play casinos Maisons-Laffitte (Editor’s note: This is the last of three columns describing Cornett’s experiences during a recent trip to Florida.)
http://lyndajblog.com/14-cat/casino_40.html The rocks were moving.
http://xxxpunch.com/12-cat/casino_20.html But I wasn’t looking at rocks. The round, dark gray objects moving about was tortoises, four of them in all. Never had I seen so many wild, adult tortoises in such a small area.
I was not in the California deserts. Rather, I was in Florida and the turtles were gopher tortoises, known to herpetologists as takoma park gay dating city Gopherus polyphemus. This species is closely related to our local desert tortoise ( gay dating website gladesville nsw Gopherus agassizii). The two are in the same genus and so are as closely related as they can be without being the same species. Today, the two species are separated by about 1,200 miles of unsuitable habitat.
Thousands of years ago the two populations were connected and only a single species existed. At some point during the Pleistocene Epoch, which began about 2.5 million years ago and ended just 11,000 years before present, the ancestral tortoise population became fragmented into four parts due to changing environmental conditions. These four populations became separated by unsuitable habitat (a river, dense forest or glacier, for example) and members could no longer breed with members in other populations. Over time, these four populations evolved into separate species, each with its own set of unique characteristics. One of these populations became the desert tortoise with which we are familiar. The other became the gopher tortoise of Florida.
The two species are about the same size but the Florida tortoise reaches much greater densities. Readers may recall that Florida gets ten times the rainfall that we receive here in the California deserts. This results in much greater plant productivity in Florida which translates into a lot more food for tortoises (all species of which are primarily plant eaters). More food means more tortoises, all other things being equal.
So my four rocks were, in fact, four tortoises crowded onto a residential vacant lot. The lot was surrounded by homes and paved city streets and not more than one quarter acre in size. Never in my life have I ever observed or even heard about one of our desert tortoises surviving on a vacant lot in a residential area. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing about a desert tortoise living within 200 yards of a suburb, surrounded by homes or not.
What’s more, I found three more active gopher tortoise burrows in neighborhood front yards, one in a back yard (it was not a pet), another tortoise eating weeds from between sidewalk cracks and four more walking around a city park—on a mowed lawn. In spite of cars regularly traveling down neighborhood streets, I never found a tortoise run over by a car. How is it that gopher tortoises live in such close relationships with Floridians? Why do desert tortoises never take up residence in Coachella Valley neighborhoods?
The four Floridians with whom I spoke said that everyone watches out for tortoises on the road and tolerates them in their yards even though an adult tortoise can dig a large burrow. Each person had, at least once, picked up a tortoise and moved it out of the street. The tortoises themselves seemed to avoid walking in the middle of the street since I never saw one on the pavement and found no carcasses. I watched one tortoise walk (and feed ravenously) for more than 100 yards on a road shoulder but never moved onto the pavement.
Unlike our desert tortoise that often must walk miles to find enough food, gopher tortoise can find all the food they need (and perhaps a mate was well) on a vacant lot. I counted 17 species of plants on the lot mentioned above. In short, gopher tortoises do not need to expose themselves to as much danger as does a desert tortoise.
I could not help but wonder how many of us would allow a desert tortoise to dig a 12-inch-wide burrow in our front yard?
Cornett is a desert ecologist and author of http://specialtyhospice.com/20-cat/casino_12.html The Desert Tortoise: Answers to Frequent Questions.