© 2017 Chris Leone/Garden State Tortoise LLC.

Testudo graeca nabeulensis

Without a single doubt the tortoises of the genus Testudo are remarkable in many, many ways. There are enormous examples and then there are petite ones. Usually the Egyptian tortoise (T. kleinmanni) is what comes to mind when we think of a small Testudo but just like some of the little western Hermann's tortoises, there are little Greek tortoises. The Nabeul tortoise or "Tunisian Spur Thighed tortoise" (Testudo graeca nabeulensis) is the smallest of the T. graeca species complex. Interestingly, in 1990 they were actually described as a separate, full species by Highfield, dubbed "Furculachelys nabeulensis". Today we know them as part of the graeca family and they are a tiny, beautiful tortoise, quite rare in American collections.

Tunisian spur thighed tortoises are second to none in being considered the smallest of the Testudo graeca species group. While this doesn't mean that there are not some larger examples out there, adult breeding sized males may weigh in at less than 200 grams. Females, like Egyptian and some forms of western Hermann's tortoise, will grow to only 4.5-5 inches. A female may lay between 1 and 3 eggs only once or twice a year. They are an arid dwelling tortoise and can prove to be difficult in captivity. While certainly not the best choice for a first time tortoise keeper, they do thrive if set up correctly. 

 Note the "face mask" on some animals pictured which is a common trait of various Testudo graeca from North Africa and the Middle East. Some specimens will feature lighter skin on the face and neck.

Another common trait of Testudo graeca nabeulensis is the heavy black pigment found on the plastron. This tortoise features a very obvious display of black when compared to other T. graeca. Similar to that of Testudo hermanni hermanni, the black pigment is easily recognizable, however, it lacks a specific formation. 

A sensitive tortoise to wet or overly humid conditions, T. g. nabeulensis is often better housed primarily indoors in most parts of the United States. We have success housing our animals outside periodically, but only during the driest portions of summer. Indoors it is much easier to monitor them and keep conditions consistent much like what we do for Egyptian tortoises (T. kleinmanni). 

Young Testudo graeca nabeulensis bear a light ground color of yellow to cream with a very conspicuous black blotch at the center of each carapace scute. The sutures of each scute are outlined in black and the plastron may be nearly all-black. The face mask is noticeable right away, with a light colored cap at the very top of the head between the eyes and extending to the snout.