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Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Activity Cycle

Adapted for arid habitats

  • Activity may be similar to other tortoises living in similar arid ecosystems (Pritchard 1979)
    • Typically feed and move around in early morning and late afternoon
    • May be active mid-day during rain
  • Lower activity during cool and dry periods (Platt et al. 2011)
    • Shelter in thick vegetation or protected spaces (e.g., rock crevices)

Movements and Dispersal

Movements

  • Not well known (Platt et al. 2011)
    • Small number of individuals (n = 4) studied by Thanda Swe (2004)
      • Daily movements and home ranges of males larger than females
  • Seasonal change aspects not well known (Platt et al. 2011)
    • Seasonally move into riparian (wetland) habitats, according to local villagers (Platt et al. 2018)
      • Wetlands may provide protection from dry-season fires

Site fidelity

  • Most individuals acclimated to release sites remain close (< 1 km) to area of release (e.g., Platt et al. 2015; Platt and Platt 2020)

Other Behaviors

Burrowing

  • Start tortoises seek refuge underground during fires and the dry season (Platt et al. 2018)
    • Partially bury themselves during dry season

Ecological Role

Effect on plant ecology

  • Seeds of some plants (e.g., Ziziphus spp.) dispersed after being eaten and digested by Burmese Star Tortoises (Aye and Minn 2019)

Interspecies Interactions

Other tortoises

  • Range and habitat overlaps with the Elongated Tortoise, Indotestudo elongata (Platt et al. 2001; Platt 2001a; Bonin et al. 2006; Platt et al. 2011)
    • Ecological relationship between the two species not well known (Platt et al. 2001; Platt 2001a)

Opportunity to Learn

Burmese star tortoise

Biologists know little about Burmese Star Tortoise ecology in the wild. Population declines driven by hunting occurred before scientists could study these already rare tortoises.

Long-term monitoring of reintroduced and wild-hatched individuals will help scientists learn more in the coming decades.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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