Tennessee Aquarium

PLEASE NOTE: The Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater will be closed on Thursday, November 23 in observance of Thanksgiving. 

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus

About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 12 inches

RANGE: Southeastern United States

HABITAT: Dry, sandy uplands, such as oak-sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods and coastal dunes of the southeastern United States.

DIET: Plants

Gopher tortoises are one of the few species of tortoise that dig burrows. These burrows can be up to ten feet deep and 40 feet long, and are as wide as the length of the tortoise that made it. The burrow is integral to the tortoise’s survival.  It provides shelter from the sun, stable temperature and relative humidity, protection from predators, a site for laying eggs under the sandy soil at the burrow mouth, and it is a crucial refuge for the tortoise and other species that are adapted to the fires that naturally occur in the tortoise’s native ecosystem. 

Gopher tortoises are herbivores and because they get water from plants and dew, tortoises rarely drink water.