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Aldabra Giant Tortoise
(Dipsochelys dussumieri)
from Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles.

Order: Chelonia
Testudinidae - Land tortoises
Gopherus - North American tortoises

In Europe, tortoise is the name given to the land-dwelling reptiles most of whose body is shielded by a special shell. Turtles and terrapins are the marine species. All living tortoises are members of the order Chelonia.

All tortoises have a protective shell around their bodies. The top part of their case is called the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge.

The size of tortoises can vary from a few centimetres to up to two meters. Tortoises generally live a long time; some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years.

The giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution, since the isolated populations on the different islands, although descend from a common ancestor, had diverged to different forms.

All land tortoises are herbivorous.

The first chelonians already existed in the era of the dinosaurs, some 200 million years ago. Chelonians are the only surviving branch of the even more ancient clade Anapsida, which includes groups such as the procolophonoids, millerettids and pareiasaurs. Most of the anapsids became extinct in the late Permian period, with the exception of the procolophonoids and the precursors of the testudines (turtles and tortoises).

Partial species list.