Testudo hermanni hermanni
Testudo hermanni hermanni is the western subspecies of Testudo hermanni. Its distribution range starts from the Marche region east of the Apennine mountain range in Italy, and covers the rest of the boot, major and minor islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea basin, Sardinia. Sicily, Corsica, Elba and Baleares. Continuing west, in discontinuity with respect to the original area, there are populations in the south of France and in the Catalonia region in Spain. It is a turtle of small size, relatively easy to breed, adult males can measure from 11cm in carapace length, on average 12-14cm, up to 16-17cm that can be found in the two major islands, Sardinia and Sicily. Even for females, a certain variability is observed with maximum record sizes of up to 22-24cm of carapace, but normally it varies between 14cm and 17cm in carapace length. Due to the large reduction of habitats and the withdrawal in nature immediately, its status is defined as vulnerable. Cites places it in Appendix II (IUNC NT), while Europe (IUNC EN), due to its important decline, especially for the western subspecies, has included it in Annex A, a status of maximum protection.
Notes and insights on Testudo hermanni hermanni
Testudo hermanni hermanni in its distribution area lays eggs between 2 and 3 (rarely up to 4) times a year from April to July, depending on the climate and the characteristics of the area, from 1 to 7 eggs each time, in medium 2-5. The development takes place on the ground and births usually occur from mid-August until the month of October. Often the young remain inside the nest until the first rains of late summer, they can rarely hibernate inside and go outside the following spring. The babies are self-sufficient at birth, while remaining easy prey for corvids, snakes, rats, foxes and wild boars. In fact, few specimens manage to reach adult size and relative sexual maturity around the tenth year of life.
As with other tortoises, the determination of sex is influenced by the incubation temperature, but it should be clarified that the topic is somewhat more complex than it appears and the de facto response is subject to multiple variables, including the active movement of the embryos based on the temperature gradient and the presence or absence of some genes that induce one sex rather than another. Moreover, since it is a fine adaptation to the environment, this sensitivity also varies between different populations and latitudes. In essence, it is not possible to have certainty of sex, as we often erroneously hear, only by setting certain incubation temperatures.
Recent genetic studies have shown that the distribution area of Testudo hermanni hermanni consists of different local forms identifiable mainly through genetic analysis. However, these differences are not sufficient to define a further taxonomic level. The trend of local forms based on geographic origin and on presumed morphometric and coloring peculiarities has recently become widespread, however without any scientific basis, but only for the purpose of selling animals of a particular area of origin at a higher price. Often this is achieved by selecting specimens with specific characters, not considering that in nature they perhaps represent only a fraction of the possible patterns present, actually present with various frequencies in all populations. Believing those who identify specific characters for each origin is therefore like believing that the motion of the stars can influence our life, obviously with all respect for those who believe in it, certainly not the undersigned. Leaving aside the fact that this could induce an illicit withdrawal in nature due to the collectors' requests, recent studies have clarified how the groups of genetically homogeneous populations are subdivided in nature. The first group is represented by the Italian continental populations, excluding three different populations found in Calabria and still under study. We therefore find the populations of the three major islands that overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, as well as those likely to be introduced in the Balearics and in Catalonia, in mainland Spain. Finally we find the populations in southern continental France, genetically definable and with a very limited variability between individuals due to the small number of animals left, and a population, probably relict, in the Albera area, in mainland Spain, not far away of the French border, which has not yet found a place in the general framework of the subspecies, and careful studies are currently underway to define it.
While from the point of view of the reintroduction in nature the new genetic tools are able to define with good precision the area of origin of an animal based on a database that collects all the peculiarities detected by recent field studies, research for collecting purposes for example of Tuscan rather than Lazio specimens, in the light of the facts it makes no sense. In fact, while from a geopolitical point of view we are in two different Italian regions, natural populations know only natural borders, such as waterways of adequate size and important mountain ranges. We are therefore going to talk about a single group that will certainly show a gene analysis attributable to a specific territory at a fine analysis, but to understand each other, we are talking about a few point mutations that simply occur more frequently. Therefore, when we speak of Testudo hermanni hermanni tuscany, rather than Apulian or Lazio, we refer only to the location of animals belonging to the same highly homogeneous group, which certainly may have some detectable morphometric difference, but this will be nothing more than an adaptive response to the particular habitat in which he lives. This does not mean that in a careful breeding it is allowed to mix at will animals of known origins, attention, but simply that from a species point of view we are faced with the same homogeneous group with populations located in different regions or parts of them. The need not to mix, which on the other hand becomes dominant when you want to safeguard the different populations that could become extinct in nature, could only make sense in the perspective of a reserve in extreme cases, for the moment a rather remote possibility except for limited areas subject to excessive anthropogenic impact.
Testudo hermanni boettgeri
Testudo hermanni boettgeri is the eastern subspecies of Testudo hermanni. Its distribution range begins in the west from the coast of Emilia Romagna in Italy and extends to all the Balkans, up to Greece, Bulgaria and Romania in an easterly direction. Recent studies identify two main genetic groups and have clarified how the differences in morphology cannot identify further taxonomic levels, settling the hercegovinensis question, although this difference is certainly greater than that found between the different populations of Testudo hermanni hermanni, which in fact it appears much more homogeneous than Testudo hermanni boettgeri. Unlike the western subspecies, the natural populations are more numerous and healthy, having suffered to a lesser extent the anthropic impact. In the case of the group extending along the coast from Italy to Albania, these are specimens of medium size close to Testudo hermanni hermanni, while for all other populations, significantly larger average sizes are observed. They are not rare specimens that reach or approach 30cm. Cites places it in Appendix II (IUNC NT), while Europe (IUNC EN), due to its important decline, especially for the western subspecies, has included it in Annex A, a status of maximum protection.
Notes and insights on Testudo hermanni boettgeri
The main differences between the two subspecies, leaving out the coloring, the shape of the carapace and the sutures of the plate, are mainly in the medium size side and in a better adaptation to colder and more humid climates. The Balkan climate is normally subject to cold incursions coming from the east and this has certainly induced this different adaptation compared to the milder and more uniform western climate, protected to the north by the Alps and to the east by the Apennine mountains. Although the Croatian genetic group has average dimensions comparable or slightly higher than the average of the populations of Testudo hermanni hermanni, in the rest of the range we find animals of an average size much larger. A recent study has clarified how the subspecific attribution of the Croatian genetic group, much less that of elevating it to the rank of species, is not sustainable. However, it remains a group that can be defined well both morphologically and genetically, however in all respects ascribable to Testudo hermanni boettgeri. Even the alleged differences in reproductive strategy are actually unfounded, being Vetter's annotations in his book Testudo hermanni taken in animals observed outside their original range and in a climate, the German one, notoriously not congenial, not to say inhospitable for a complete life cycle. In conditions closer to the original area, in central Italy, I have personally observed how the Croatian genetic group that we could still continue to call slangly hercegovinensis, regularly lays an average of 3 times a year with rare episodes in which it can even get to 4, from 1 to 6 eggs, normally from 2 to 5 for each ovation. On the other hand, the larger group that occupies the rest of the range, of different, but depending on the significantly larger average size, against an identical reproductive behavior, lays from 4 to 12 eggs, on average from 6 to 8. Both show an identical embryonic growth rate and a similar anticipation in development compared to Testudo hermanni hermanni, quantifiable at an average temperature of about 31 ° C, in 2/3 days less incubation. If we want to notice a difference between the two genetic groups of Testudo hermanni boettgeri, we can find it in a different adaptation to humid environments, which translates into a lower survival rate of the young of the hercegovinensis group. Therefore it is good to be careful to raise the young in enclosures where the water never stagnates.
Unlike Testudo hermanni hermanni, the eastern subspecies still has thriving natural populations and, thanks to its greater reproductive rate, is unquestionably less vulnerable than the western one. In addition, there are large breeding farms that produce tens of thousands of babies per year against the few hundred products of the western subspecies, making it much more common and present among enthusiasts all over the world.