Marginated Tortoise Fact File

Testudo marginata








Wild 100 years

Captive 100 years



Leaves and Shoots

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The marginated tortoise is named for the flared appearance to the back of its shell. Their shell pattern darkens with age.

They are native to Europe where they can be found in Greece and Italy with some introduced populations. Here they are found in forest and shrubland.

Up to three times each year the female may deposit up to 15 eggs which incubate for a period of 100 days in soft soil.

These animals are threatened by collection for the pet trade, habitat loss and wildfires.

Read on to learn more about these terrific tortoises.


As with all tortoises they have a hard shell on their back. This is colored black and brown with yellow and orange markings across it. The lighter underside is colored olive or yellow with brown and black triangle markings. These patterns darken with age. At the rear of the shell is an area of thick scales which are flared outwards and patterned with orange markings.

Both juveniles and adults have black skin with white highlights on the head.

The dark coloration of the shell is an adaptation which allows them to warm up in the sun.

Their four feet are equipped with large claws which allow them to dig a burrow or nest.

Marginated tortoises are considered to be the largest species of land tortoise found in Europe. They have an average body length of 38cm (15in) long with a weight of 5kg (11lbs).

Males have significantly longer tails than females allowing them to be distinguished from one another. They also tend to be larger than females.


Marginated tortoises are herbivores which feed on a range of leaves, shoots and herbs. Small amounts of fruit is also consumed.

Marginated Tortoise


Europe is the native home of the marginated tortoise. Here they occur naturally in Greece and Albania.

They have been introduced to Italy and the island of Crete. The population in Sardinia is also thought to have come from an introduction during Roman times.

In some small parts of their range they overlap with the Hermann's tortoise. These can interbreed in captivity but this has not been recorded in the wild.


They make their home in forest and shrubland. They are often seen among rocky outcrops. Marginated tortoises can also be found in human altered habitats such as olive groves and agricultural landscapes.

Marginated tortoises can be found at heights of up to 1585m (5200ft) above sea level.

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Breeding takes place after they leave their winter hibernation.

To attract a mate the male will stick out his bright red tongue as he produces a loud bark.

Each clutch of eggs they lay include an average of four to six eggs. Some with as many as 15 eggs have been recorded though. They may produce one to three clutches each year. These eggs are buried in to soft soil.

Marginated tortoise eggs incubate under the ground for a period of 100 days.

They reach their full adult size within 20 years.

Sexual maturity is reached within eight to fourteen years.


Marginated tortoises will warm up in the sun during the morning before retreating to an area of shade during the hottest parts of the day.

During winter they enter a period of hibernation where they are less active.

Marginated Tortoise

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the marginated tortoise include birds, mammals and reptiles.

The largest threat to the survival of the marginated tortoise is wildfires. Their habitat is also impacted by construction of tourist infrastructure. Juveniles are occasionally trampled by livestock.

Large numbers of marginated tortoises are collected to supply the pet trade.

Numbers of the marginated tortoise are considered stable but an exact estimate of their population is hard to acquire due to the preferred habitat being hard to penetrate.

Quick facts

The marginated tortoise is named for its shell which flares out at the sides.

Marginated Tortoise

Photo Credits

Top and Bottom

Richard Mayer, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Public Domain

Middle Two

Alexandros Gassios, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

van Dijk, P.P., Lymberakis, P. & Böhme, W. 2004. Testudo marginata (errata version published in 2020). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T21653A176606013. Downloaded on 27 July 2021.

Reptiles Magazine. 2021. Marginated Tortoise Information and Care - Reptiles Magazine. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 July 2021]. 2021. Marginated - Tortoise Protection Group. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 July 2021].

All Turtles. 2021. Marginated Tortoise (Testudo Marginata) [Care Guide] - All Turtles. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 July 2021].

Leone, C., 2017. Marginated Tortoise. [online] Garden State Tortoise. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 July 2021].

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