New discovery: Tortoise shell design

The latest scientific news explains the topsy-turvy world of tortoise competition. 

Hermann's tortoise

The sight of a tortoise flailing hopelessly on its back implies that these reptiles have a basic design fault. And new research suggest why. Like many of life’s little challenges, it may come down to sex. 

Serbian biologists have shown that, because of the shape of their shell, small Hermann’s tortoises can right themselves but big ones cannot. This isn’t a problem for larger females, who live peaceful lives in their native Mediterranean and are, therefore, unlikely to find themselves peering at the world upside-down. But males need to be big to flip rivals over when fighting for females, which makes them vulnerable to being flipped themselves. 

So why hasn’t evolution furnished them with a failsafe self-righting mechanism – shells with high spires, for example? “We can only speculate,” says Belgrade University’s Ana Golubović, who led the research. Pointy shells might make mating tricky, she says. “Or they might preclude movement through dense vegetation or under branches, or hiding under rocks.”

Source Zoologischer Anzeiger 

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