ABSTRACT

In most animal species, it is expected that females should exhibit a greater abdominal volume than males to hold the progeny, when compared with females, males should exhibit more developed attributes that enhance mobility. We tested this hypothesis in the Greek tortoise. In chelonians, a reduction of the openings in the shell improves protection against predation but also constrains the abdominal volume and limits the space available to move the limbs. As expected, our data show that the shell provides a larger abdominal volume relative to tortoise size in females than in males. In males, deep notches in the shell and a reduction of several plastron plates offer more freedom to the limbs and to the tail; these characteristics presumably enhance mating success. Further studies are necessary to assess the applicability of these results in other chelonians, notably freshwater and marine turtles.

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