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Desert tortoises, Gopherus agassizii, generally were active in the spring and fall. They often became active during and after infrequent showers and thunderstorms, and drank from temporary pools of standing water even when air temperatures were suboptimal (9-15 C). In several instances tortoises constructed shallow catchment basins which held water for as long as six h. Thus tortoises can obtain drinking water by modifying their environment. Following small amounts of rainfall (5.6 mm) in July 1976, six tortoises increased an average of 9.2% in body weight; this increase was due to ingestion of water. Drinking may be an important source of water for this species. Published in Herpetologica, volume 36, issue 4, on...
The desert tortoise occurs in two strikingly different desert regimes in the southwestern United States. In the Mojave Desert, rainfall is more irregular and resources are more limited than in the Sonoran Desert. We examined the age structure of tortoise populations from these two deserts to determine whether the difference in resource availability has driven an evolutionary divergence in life history strategies. Age and growth rates strongly reflect the ecological adaptation of the two populations. The oldest Sonoran males reached 54 years, compared to only 43 years in females. The oldest West Mojave (WM) males reached 56 years, compared to only 27 years in females. WM tortoises grew faster than Sonoran ones, and...