© 2017 Chris Leone/Garden State Tortoise LLC.

Comparing the forms of

western hermann's tortoise

Testudo hermanni hermanni

INTRODUCTION

Testudo hermanni hermanni is recognized by having several distinct local forms in nature. While some are separated by countries (this tortoise occurs in Italy, France and Spain) others are separated by seas, rivers, mountain ranges and other geographical situations. Through evolution, these local forms have come to look a certain way and in some cases, their genetics are distinct as well. Simply put, they are not "all just western Hermann's" as we sometimes hear from irresponsible parties when it comes to keeping them in captivity. If origin and history is known then it is our duty as responsible keepers to keep them grouped accordingly. After all, who are we to say that it's ok to group them together or mix forms? Nature intended for them to be as they are today and we aim to mimic that as much as humanly possible. The Testudo hermanni hermanni colonies maintained here are and always have been kept with members of their own form and nothing else. Known origin, actual history and even genetic work has enabled us to be sure of things when it comes to our animals so luckily I am able to take countless photographs and write as much as I can to help the reader or viewer understand the differences between them. The unfortunate truth is that most history concerning tortoises in captivity remains lost, buried in the past and forgotten about. This has led to the inevitable surfacing of not just locale mixes but of full-blown hybrids. For these reasons, and because variation is so paramount with Hermann's tortoises (and any other Testudo for that matter) it can be nearly impossible to be sure of where a specimen or group of specimens originates. Even within a given population there is a surprising amount of variation. Both big and small examples can occur in a local form and both dark and light examples can be found too. There is much more to this and in the following images I've used our own animals from legitimate natural locations to help paint the ultimate picture of how different or similar they actually are. As useful as this website may be to the viewer, one should never lose sight of the fact that these animals are merely a fraction of what exists in nature. Therefore, variation is not limited to what is depicted here. Always keep an open mind.

VAROISE vs. CORSICA

France is home to two known forms of T. h. hermanni. 

The mainland or continental form, Varoise and the insular or island form, Corisca.

Varoise is typically the smaller, less variable form displaying several constants found in continental populations. Corsica is the larger, far more variable form which falls easily into what is commonplace for insular T. h. hermanni. 

Blue Arrows- On Varoise, the subocular spot (cheek spot) is less noticeable and faint. In some it is lacking entirely while others have one small triangular shape of yellow. Young will have a brighter spot. The top of the head is dark and may or may not have some faint dark green scales at the back. On Corsica, the subocular spot is large and bright. This is the case even on older animals. Yellow to greenish scales are found on the top of the head at the back.

In addition to these points, we see that the snout of a Varoise tortoise is more rounded or blunt. The animal from Corsica reveals the classic pointed snout and more of a hooked beak which is typical for insular specimens. Overall, the head of the Corse animal is more elongate.

 

 

Varoise

Corsica

Corsica

Varoise

Blue Arrows- Varoise tortoises exhibit more than 50% of black content on the carapace on a high number of specimens. The black is in the form of well-defined, bold markings. The ground color of the shell is a rich golden-yellow with a slight orange hue at times. Corsica tortoises feature less black with markings appearing less symmetrical and sometimes "frayed". The ground color is a paler yellow to greenish in some.

Blue Lines- The suture between the first and second vertebral scutes of Varoise T. h. hermanni is straight edged. The same suture on Corsica animals dips forward in a recognizable "U" shape. This can be quite conspicuous on some animals.

Overall, the carapace of Varoise tortoises is typically elliptical with very minimal flaring of the rear marginal scutes. Animals from Corsica are broader and some are very trapezoidal in shape.

 

 

Blue Lines- The suture separating the pectoral scutes from the humeral scutes on the plastron of Varoise specimens dips downward in an easy to notice "U" while the same suture on tortoises from Corsica varies. It can be more of a "V" shape, a wavy line or a zig zag and in some cases it can also dip down like a "U". 

Varoise

Corsica

Varoise

Blue Arrows- More often than not, Varoise tortoises lack any black pigment on the inner sides of the gular scutes. A small percentage may feature one or two small, thin stripes. The tortoises of Corsica, like most insular populations of Testudo hermanni hermanni's Italian range, will feature the corresponding trait known as the "gular mustache".  One to two easily visible black stripes are carefully placed. One stripe per scute or only one scute being marked is very common. This is noted even on hatchlings.

Corsica

Varoise

Blue Numbers- A rather constant trait found on Varoise tortoises is the number of claws on the front feet. The vast majority of the time each foot will feature five (5) claws. Only a small percentage will have five on one and four on the other. For Corse tortoises, the number of claws is typically four (4) on each front foot however, this varies but not usually as much as it does on insular populations of the Italian range.

Lastly, the front claws of Varoise specimens may turn to a gray or even black as the animal ages. The front claws of Corse tortoises seem to always be yellow.

Corsica

Varoise

Varoise Testudo hermanni hermanni typically weigh between 400 and 550 grams for males and 700-850 grams for females. Larger examples are not uncommon.

Corsica Testudo hermanni hermanni typically weigh between 600 and 750 grams for males and 900-1,200 grams for females. Both larger and slightly smaller examples exist.

Corsica

MANY MORE TO COME, PLEASE BE PATIENT.