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Asian forest tortoise

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Asian forest tortoise
Manouria emys from Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Testudinidae
Genus: Manouria
M. emys
Binomial name
Manouria emys
  • Testudo emys emys
    • Testudo emys
      Schlegel & S. Müller, 1840
    • Testudo emydoides
      A.M.C. Duméril, Bibron & A.H.A. Duméril, 1851
    • Manouria fusca
      Gray, 1854
    • Teleopus luxatus
      LeConte, 1854
    • Manouria emydoides
      Strauch, 1862
    • Manouria emys
      — Strauch, 1862
    • Manouria luxata
      — Strauch, 1862
    • Testudo (Scapia) falconeri
      Gray, 1869
    • Scapia falconeri
      — Gray, 1870
    • Manuria emys
      Lydekker, 1889
    • Geochelone emys
      Loveridge & E. Williams, 1957
    • Manouria emys emys
      Obst, 1983
    • Geochelone emys emys
      — Gosławski & Hryniewicz, 1993
    • Testudo emys emys
      — Paull, 1999
    Testudo emys phayrei
    • Testudo phayrei
      Blyth, 1853
    • Testudo (Scapia) falconeri
      — Gray, 1869
    • Scapia falconeri
      — Gray, 1870
    • Scapia phayrei
      — Gray, 1871
    • Testudo nutapundi
      Reimann, 1979
    • Geochelone nutapundi
      — Groombridge, 1982
    • Manouria emys nutapundi
      — Obst, 1983
    • Manouria emys phayrei
      Bour, 1984
    • Geochelone (Manouria) emys phayeri
      Alderton, 1988 (ex errore)
    • Geochelone emys nutapundi
      — Gosławski & Hryniewicz, 1993
    • Manouria nutapundi
      — Obst, 1996
    • Manouria emys phayeri
      — Paull, 1997
    • Manouria emys phayre
      Das, 2001 (ex errore)
    • Manouria emys phareyi
      Ferri, 2002 (ex errore)

The Asian forest tortoise (Manouria emys), also known commonly as the Mountain tortoise or Burmese Brown Mountain tortoise, is a species of tortoise in the family Testudinidae. The species is endemic to Southeast Asia. It is believed to be among the most primitive of living tortoises, based on molecular and morphological studies.


There are two recognized subspecies: M. e. emys occurring in southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo; and M. e. phayrei, occurring from northwestern Thailand to northeastern India. The latter was named after Sir Arthur Purves Phayre (1812–1885), British Army officer in India who became Commissioner of British Burma.[3]

Based on a variety of phylogenetic characteristics, the genus Manouria is regarded as comparatively primitive and basal to other Testudinidae.[4]


Illustration by George Henry Ford

The Asian forest tortoise is the largest tortoise in mainland Asia. The largest adults of the northern subspecies, Manouria emys phayrei, can reach 25 kg (55 lb) in the wild and much more than that in captivity.

The carapace is considerably depressed, its depth not half its length; anterior and posterior margins reverted, more or less strongly serrated; nuchal present; two supracaudal shields; dorsal shields concentrically striated, often concave; vertebrals much broader than long and at least as broad as costals. The plastron is large, gular region somewhat produced and usually notched, hind lobe deeply notched; the pectoral shields may be widely separated from each other, or from a short median suture; axillary shield very small, inguinal large. The head is moderate in size; two large prefrontal shields and a large frontal; beak not hooked; jaws feebly denticulated, the alveolar surface of the upper jaw with a strong median ridge. The forelimbs anteriorly have very large, bony, pointed, imbricate tubercles, forming four or five longitudinal series. The hind limbs have very large bony tubercles on the plantar surface, with others larger, conical, and spur-like on the heel, and a group of still larger conical tubercles on each side on the back of the thighs. Adults are dark brown or blackish. The carapace of juveniles is yellowish brown, with dark-brown markings.[5]

Carapace from Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand.
Plastron from Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand.


The Asian forest tortoise occurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.[1]


Manouria emys has been observed in the wild to consume whole fungi, shoots of koster's curse (Miconia crenata), leaves and petioles of elephant ears (Alocasia sarawakensis and Alocasia scabriuscula), shoots of Begonia sp., shoots of Phrynium sp., shoots of vegetable fern (Diplazium esculentum), and flowers of wild ginger (Etlingera coccinea). Most commonly eaten were plants of the genus Alocasia, with individuals observed standing nearly vertical to reach leaves. In captivity, individuals have accepted a wide variety of food, predominantly being herbivorous but occasionally consuming frogs, snails, or carrion when presented.[6]


Manouria emys is the only tortoise which lays its eggs above ground in a nest, which the female constructs of leaf litter. The female uses both front and rear legs to gather material for the nest and lays up to 50 eggs deep inside it. She then sits on and near the nest to protect it, and will "chase" predators and intruders away.[7]

Preliminary research has been conducted into Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination (TSD) in Manouria Emys Emys, and an estimated pivotal temperature of 29.29°C was determined. Incubation temperatures higher than this produce high rates of female hatchlings, and lower than this produce high rates of males.

A correlation was also seen between temperature and incubation time, with higher temperatures resulting in a shorter incubation time, and lower temperatures resulting in a longer incubation time. Incubation time ranged from 60 to 90 days. [7]

Cited references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Choudhury, B.C.; Cota, M.; McCormack, T.; Platt, K.; Das, I.; Ahmed, M.F.; Timmins, R.J.; Rahman, S.C.; Singh, S. (2019). "Manouria emys". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T12774A152052098. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T12774A152052098.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  2. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Havaš, Peter (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 288. doi:10.3897/vz.57.e30895. ISSN 1864-5755. S2CID 87809001.
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Manouria emys phayrei, p. 205).
  4. ^ Le M, Raxworthy CJ [in French], McCord WP, Mertz L (2006). "A molecular phylogeny of tortoises (Testudines: Testudinidae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear genes". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40 (2): 517–531. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.03.003. PMID 16678445.
  5. ^ Boulenger GA (1890). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. London: Secretary of State for India in Council. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xviii + 541 pp. (Testudo emys, p. 22).
  6. ^ Høybye-Mortensen K. 2004.  M. Sc. Thesis, University of South Denmark. p. 100
  7. ^ a b Emer, Sherri (2007-05-04). "Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in Manouria Emys Emys, The Asian Forest Tortoise". Biology Theses. doi:10.57709/1059206.

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson J (1871). "On Testudo Phayrei, Theob. & Dr. Gray". Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. Fourth Series. 8 (47): 324–330. doi:10.1080/00222937108696497.
  • Blyth E (1854). "Notices and Descriptions of Various Reptiles, New or Little-known. Part I". J. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 22 [1853]: 639–655.
  • Schlegel H, Müller S (1844). "Over de Schildpadden van den Indischen Archipel ". In: Temminck CJ (1839–1847). Verhandelingen over de natuurlijke geschiedenis der Nederlandsche overzeesche bezittingen, door de leden der Natuurkundige Commisie in Oost-Indie en andere schrijvers. Leijden folio. Afd. 1 Zoologie in 12 afleveringen, met 45 gekl. pl. - Vitg. door C.J. Temminck, Leiden, Leuchtmans u. Hoeck in comm.: 29–36. (Testudo emys, new species, p. 34 + Plate IV). (in Dutch).
  • Stoliczka F (1871). "Note on Testudo Phayrei". Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. Fourth Series. 8 (45): 212. doi:10.1080/00222937108696469.

External links[edit]