Radiated tortoise

A Critically Endangered “rockstar” tortoise native to the land of Madagascar

Charles J. Sharp

A stunningly beautiful species endemic to the southern part of Madagascar. The intricate yellow and black star-like pattern on their high-domed carapaces is not only the origin of their common name but also makes them one of the most visually striking tortoises in the world. This pattern is not just for show; it is camouflage among the grasses and brush of their natural habitat.

As herbivores, radiated tortoises play a significant ecological role in their native environment. By grazing on grasses and other vegetation, they contribute to the maintenance of the grassland habitat, preventing overgrowth and promoting a diversity of plant life. Their diet is not limited to grass; it also includes fruits, leaves, and succulents, vital for their water intake, especially in the dry regions they inhabit.

The radiated tortoise is the largest of the star-patterned tortoises and has several physiological adaptations that are characteristic of the species. They have powerful, beak-like mouths capable of breaking through tough plant material, such as cactus pads, which are a common food source in their arid home range. Their thick skin helps protect them from the harsh sun and potential predators.

These tortoises are diurnal and active during the day when the temperature is warmer. They are known to bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature and are highly dependent on access to fresh water, drinking copiously whenever possible.


Population est.
6.3 million

Did you know?

  • A captured Radiated tortoise will make a high-pitched crying sound that can go on for about an hour.
  • Radiated tortoises ‘dance’ in the rain, which seems to be an attempt to get debris off their backs.
  • A tortoise with the name Tu’i Malila lived to the age of 188 years, the oldest Radiated tortoise to be recorded.
  • This tortoise is not so fond of cold weather and cannot tolerate night temperatures of less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The Radiated tortoise can feel when you touch it, as its shell contains blood vessels and nerves.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No