Best 10 Chersobius Signatus Facts, Size, Diet

Chersobius signatus

Until now, we have talked about different species of tortoises, we discussed medium-sized tortoises, we talked about one of the world’s giant tortoises, but one thing that we have been missing since then is: What is the world’s smallest tortoise? Here lies the answer! Chersobius signatusis the world’s smallest tortoise. And we will be talking about this tortoise throughout this article. So, stay connected if you want to know it’s exciting facts and features.  

Being the smallest species of tortoise, It belongs to the family Testudinidae and genus Chersobius. In typical human language, Chersobius signatus is known as Speckled tortoise. It also has one or two other names such as Speckled padloper and Speckled Cape tortoise. This species is native to South Africa and is currently recognized as a threatened species. 

Chersobius signatus 1

The fact behind it name

Chersobius is the genus that was characterized specifically for the three smallest species of tortoises. The word padlopers means “path-walkers,” and this word is used with it because of its specialty of making small pathways through vegetation.

Chersobius signatus classification

Let’s have a look at its classification: 

Scientific NameChersobius signatus
Order Testudines
SpeciesC. signatus
Diet Herbivores
Lifespan 90 to 100 years.
Weight95 to 165 g
Incubation period 100 to 200 days.  
Trophic levelHerbivores
Length 2 to 4 inches

Chersobius signatus physical appearance

Its shell is not very different from other tortoises, but as every species has its own specialty, this species is recognized by its small size and five toes on its forefeet. Its shell is not-curved but flattened with a little serrated edge. Male species of it have a clearly noticeable concave belly. As well as the color of the shell is concerned, it is yellowish and orangish, and some black spots are also present. 

Chersobius signatus size

Females have a noticeable larger size than males. The carapace length in female species has an average of 10 cm that makes up 3.9 inches. Male species have a carapace length of about 6-8 cm that makes up between 2.4-3.1 inches. Length of hatchlings measures up to a maximum of 1.2 inches.

Chersobius signatus weight

As I said, females are bigger than males, and so is their weight. But on average they weigh about 95-165 grams. Born hatchlings have weights no more than 7 grams.

Chersobius signatus diet

Being herbivorous in nature, these species feed on a large amount of plants and plant like materials such as endive, chicory, fleaworts, plants from the genus Taraxacum and dandelions. 

Chersobius signatus

Chersobius signatus lifespan

There is not any specific data declared about exactly how long this species gets to live, but it is believed that they can live up to 100 years or maybe more than 100 years. Obviously, most of the tortoises die in the age of non-maturity due to several threats to their habitat and predators. Let’s have a look at them!

Population threat

These tortoises are facing a decline in their population due to illegal trade as pets, and destruction of habitat. This tortoise is currently enlisted as an endangered species on IUCN red list. However, many organizations in South Africa, several zoos, and Namibian laws are playing their role in the protection, and rehabilitation of these species. 


Hatchlings are more vulnerable to predators like pigs, birds, humans, and dogs. One point to be noted here is “Human,” Alas! Humans have been hunting them to fill their bellies. 

Chersobius signatus habitat

These tortoises are found in South Africa, and Namibia, and the region between these two. While specifically talking about their living in South Africa, most of these tortoises are found on the West side of it, and there, they live in dry and arid areas. It lives on rocky outcrops near to the small succulent plant, part of their diet so that it won’t have to go far away for food-searching. 

Chersobius signatus mating

Very little is known about their mating and behavior like things. However, they are likely to mate in months from August to October. It is believed that females lay only one clutch throughout the mating seasons. Males and females nod their heads before mating. 

Incubation period

The incubation period lasts 100 to 200 days. Before laying the eggs, the mother tortoises search for an appropriate place on the basis of temperature, and moistness of soil. After the burrowing process is completed it lays down eggs. The temperature at which eggs are incubated could be helpful to guess the sex, but this temperature in the first place is not researched yet. Chersobius signatus baby when born is most vulnerable to predators, and they weigh only about 7 grams. Read the complete article related to Gopher Tortoise

Chersobius signatures as pet

Believe me! Here, the most common question which is asked about this tortoise is Can you have a speckled tortoise as a pet? Unfortunately! No,! but wait not exactly no! and not exactly yes!. The situation is in between. It is illegal to have it as a pet which makes it a No! and a special permit is required to have it as a pet which makes it a Yes! So, yeah! If you are granted a special permit, luckily! Then you can keep it as a pet. But wait! This is not an easy task.

Chersobius signature care

These tortoises are not easy to take care of at all! They require a special diet, special habitat similar to their native habitat as well as special food, otherwise, they will not adapt to the captive environment and will die sadly!  But the question is how can you take care of your tortoise? Don’t worry, note the tips I am just going to mention!

Chersobius signature food 

Give them the food enriched in fiber, and not in protein. Before giving them food, make sure the food components are not treated with any kind of chemical as they could be dangerous for the health of the tortoise. Adult tortoises should be fed with a day gap, whereas baby tortoises should be fed daily. 

Chersobius signatus 3

Chersobius signature enclosure

Due to their smallest size, you don’t need to arrange a large enclosure for them. For a single species, 5.5 sq. foot would be large enough. Compacted sandy loam is proved to be the best substrate. It would be good for them if you organize the habitat to their native habitat as much as you can. The use of rocks, and wood stumps, and plants would be perfect for this purpose. 

Chersobius signature humidity

Maintaining the enclosure temperature is very important, day time temperature should not exceed in summer more than 31 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius in winter. Along with this, inside their enclosure UVB lights should also be present to ensure synthesizes of vitamin D by tortoises. 

Chersobius signatus facts

  1. They are used-to rising in the early morning, and stay active during day-time. 
  2. They nod their heads when in the mood of mating.
  3. They are prohibited to be sold as pets unless a special permit is granted.
  4. Very few of them adapt to a captive environment, and many die when kept away from native habitat.
  5. Fault nutrition, dampness, bad husbandry and high humidity are all bad for them.

What to feed your Chersobius signatus?

If luckily, you have them as a pet, then along with grasses and plants, provide them with additional grabs, chopped hay, heucobs, and some other fiber enriched components. Don’t forget to provide them drinkable water. Vitamins and calcium additives designed specifically for tortoise can also be provided to them. 

Chersobius signatus

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