Tortoises are classified as reptiles and are known to live for up to 150 years, reproducing every year. They are characterized by a hard shell that develops from the day the eggs hatch. They mate throughout the year from different partners.
But how do tortoises mate? Tortoise mates by the male mounting on the female’s back and guiding its penis into the female’s cloaca using the tail. The male performs mating rituals such as bobbing its head and nipping the front edges of the shell and head. The female stops and the male goes to her back and mounts to mate.
In this guide, we shall review how do tortoise mate and the rituals they perform during and after mating. In addition, we shall also discuss the mating patterns and facts concerning the mating life of tortoises.
How Do Tortoise Mate? All Questions Answered!
The male tortoise mounts on the female’s back and inserts its penis into the female’s cloaca with the help of its tail. That is why male tortoises have longer tails than females.
Females mate with several male partners throughout the year while storing the semen in their bodies, awaiting fertilization for up to seven years. The male performs various mating rituals to attract and lure the female to mating. These rituals include;
- Nipping the female’s front legs and edges of the shell to stop it and allow for mating
- The male may bob its head onto the female’s shell until the female responds with a positive sign of mating
- At times, the male may bite the female’s head until the female retracts the head and front legs as a sign of readiness to mate
Once the female responds positively to a mating call, the male goes to the female’s back and mounts it. The female lays calm as the male mounts with the help of its front legs.
Depending on the species and prevailing weather, mating can take between 30 minutes to hours.
Below is a link on how tortoises mate.
When Do Tortoises Get Ready For Mating?
Different species reach sexual maturity at different levels; some are fast maturing while others take longer to develop. Male tortoises reach sexual maturity more quickly than females.
Check the table below for different tortoise species and their sexual maturity age.
|Tortoise Species||Sexual Maturity|
|Sulcata tortoise||5 – 15 years|
|Desert tortoise||13 – 20 years|
|Hermann’ tortoise||10 – 12 years|
|Indian Star tortoise||6 – 12 years|
|Egyptian tortoise||5 – 7 years|
|Red footed tortoise||4 – 5 years|
|Russian tortoise||10 – 12 years|
|Gopher tortoise||9 – 21 years|
|Elongated tortoise||10 – 14 years|
|Radiated tortoise||13 – 15 years|
How Often Do Tortoise Mate?
Tortoises mate through the year with more than three male partners so long as the female agrees to the mating call. Female tortoises can store these sperm healthy and viable in its body for up to seven years, increasing the chances of fertilization.
Tortoises can mate more often in captivity, especially during the wet seasons and the beginning of summer. Mating in captivity is motivated by the availability of food and water within a secure location.
In the wild, they only mate once they find a suitable environment with enough food for them and their offspring.
How Long Does The Tortoise Mating Process Last?
The mating process varies from one species to another and depends on the prevailing weather. On average, a mating process will last between 30 minutes and a few hours. The whole courting and mating process can last up to 2 hours, with the male making sexual rituals until the female responds.
Species such as the Galapagos tortoise last for between 30- and 50-minute mating. Loud groaning sounds from the male characterize their mating experience.
Where Do Female Tortoise Lay Their Eggs?
Tortoises can lay up to 30 eggs in a clutch and at most two clutches in a year. They lay their eggs in nests or holes; they dig nests with their legs.
One female can lay eggs in almost three different holes/nests depending on factors such as availability of water, food and safeness. Once they lay eggs in the holes, they cover them in light soil and leaves for incubation.
The female returns to its habitat and doesn’t tend to offspring during this period. The eggs take 8 to 10 weeks before hatching, and then the hatchlings fend independently.
How Long Does It Take For The Tortoise Eggs To Hatch?
The gestation period for tortoises ranges between 60 to 120 days, depending on the species and the environment in which they live. The climate in the ecosystem also affects the gestation period for tortoises.
When the climate is wet and there is plenty of food, meaning the tortoise is healthy to reproduce, the gestation period rarely exceeds 100 days.
Tortoise hatches their eggs in several nests, burying them with dirt and leaves. The incubation period ranges between 8 – 10 weeks, depending on the species.
Interesting Facts About Tortoise Mating Life
Tortoises have a unique mating life from the sexual contact point until the gestation period is over and the eggs hatch. Below are some of these intriguing facts about tortoises.
- Females do not take care of their hatchlings. Instead, male tortoise tends to their offsprings for almost one year
- The Galapagos tortoise weighs up to 220 pounds
- A female tortoise can keep the male semen in her body for at least seven years
- Tortoises can mate for up to 2 hours in a single mating process
Here are the frequently asked questions about the tortoise’s mating life.
Tortoises love mating during the wet seasons in spring when there is plenty of food. They need food to keep them healthy during the mating and gestation period. The wetness provides an ambient environment for laying eggs.
Some lay their eggs during early summer for the optimal temperatures needed for the eggs to hatch.
Tortoises can lay up to 30 eggs with a survival rate to adulthood of 5% to 10% due to constant predation and loss of habitat. With a continuous reproduction life, the tortoise can get between 15 and 20 offspring that reach maturity.
The tortoise’s size depends on the strength of individual hatchlings, as the mother does not care for them.
It is hard to differentiate between a male and a female tortoise from a distance. However, looking closely at their tails, you can spot the difference.
Typically, females have shorter tails than the male tortoise. Females have a smooth flat plastron, while males have a concave plastron. The male has a broad and more extensive shell than the female tortoise.
The male tortoise does some mating rituals with the female partner, and upon receiving a positive signal, it mounts on the female for the copulation process. Thus, the male supports itself using its front legs on the dome-shaped female shell.
The mating process may take between 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the species and the health status of the tortoise, especially the male. Then the female goes into a gestation period of up to 120 days, followed by an incubation period of 8 – 10 weeks. The eggs hatch on their own, and the hatchlings feed themselves to maturity.