GREECE 2012

 

 

Reptilia: TESTUDINES (Terrapins & Tortoises)

Four species of chelonians (two freshwater terrapins and two terrestrial tortoises), from three families, occur in Thrace and all four were recorded during our short visit.

Emydidae:

Emys orbicularis hellenica - Greek pond terrapin
The attractive, high-domed Greek pond terrapin is found in the river near Loutrós but we encountered only a single live specimen. This is a widely distributed European species exhibiting a much fragmented range, with Greek specimens being allocated subspecific status. Maximum carapace length is around 250 mm.

 

Greek pond terrapin,
Emys orbicularis hellenica

from the river in Loutrós

 

Geoemydidae:

Mauremys rivulata - Balkan terrapin
The Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata), a former subspecies of the widespread Caspian terrapin (M. caspica), is widespread throughout the entire region, including on many islands. We found it to be a fairly common species in the river near Loutrós, dwelling in the shallows, the weed-beds and the artificial pools created by the various dams and weirs across the river. Several dead specimens were also found trapped under the mesh used to stabilise the banks. Although 250 mm is achievable, we did not find any really large specimens.

Balkan terrapin,
Mauremys rivulata

from the river in Loutrós

 

Testudinidae:

Three species of terrestrial tortoise occur in Greece, although the Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata) does not occur in Thrace. Several characteristics can be used to separate the other two species: Eastern Hermann's tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri) and Eastern spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera) as illustrated in the diagrams below. The presence of a single supracaudal plate in both species in Greece meant closer examination was necessary to determine identification. This also made it difficult to postively identify any dead tortoises (or which we found a fair few) since other than the condition of the supracaudal plate, the other distinguishing features are soft-tissue characteristics which were long decomposed. Both species of tortoise were very common and it would be interesting to examine how they partition the available resources or whether they compete.

Eastern Hermann's tortoise,
Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri
Eastern spur-thighed tortoise,
Testudo graeca ibera

 

Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri - Eastern Hermann's tortoise
We found Eastern Hermann's tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri) in fields and agricultural areas around Loutrós and further north around Passáni. This species is smaller than the Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera) with a maximum carapace length of 250 mm.

Eastern Hermann's tortoise,
Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri

near Passáni, north of Loutrós

 

Testudo graeca ibera - Eastern spur-thighed tortoise
We found numerous Eastern spur-thighed tortoises (Testudo graeca ibera) in most habitats but they were possibly more common than Hermann's tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri) in the less agricultural rocky habitats where we primarily concentrated our attention. We also found a number of juvenile and hatchling tortoises in rocky habitats or crossing the roads. The Spur-thighed tortoise can achieve carapace lengths up to 300 mm.

Eastern spur-thighed tortoise,
Testudo graeca ibera

near locations around Loutrós and Evros River
Eastern spur-thighed tortoise,
Testudo graeca ibera

the smallest specimen found