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Breeding, Incubation and Hatching of the Flat-tailed Tortoise (Pyxis planicauda) - Pat Ruby and Darrell Senneke

Related Care Sheets or Articles:

Flat-tailed Tortoise - Pyxis planicauda – Darrell Senneke and Chris Tabaka DVM , ,

Differentiating Male and Female Pyxis planicauda (Flat-tailed Tortoise) - Chris Tabaka DVM

Pyxis Gallery

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Flat-tailed tortoises are found in an environment that has a very wide climatic range,  as mentioned in our care sheet,  in deciduous forest.  In nature they experience temperatures  below 45 degrees F (7 degrees C ) and above 100 degrees F.(28 degrees C ). They are inactive while in the upper range of temperatures and in nature seek shelter in higher humidity locations at that time.  This must be taken into consideration when arranging housing for them.  The species is also inactive during the lower temperature ranges and thus one of the most seasonal of all chelonia.


As a response to the wide variance of climatic conditions P. planicauda utilizes a biological tactic known as diapause.  Diapause is most frequently encountered in insects. It is defined as a period of arrested development that has evolved as an adaptation to survive seasonally recurring adverse conditions. It is a biological strategy used to overwinter, or survive periods of drought or scarcity of food in tropical and desert regions. Diapause in interesting in that it can occur in advance of the actual onset of unfavorable conditions, and can persist even after favorable environmental conditions return. 1


While diapause is not unknown in other chelonian species (Indotestudo elongata, Malacochersus tornieri and others), it has proved to be exceedingly difficult to "break" diapause in P. planicauda in captivity.  After much experimentation by various breeders a system of cooling down eggs below 70 degrees F (21 C) with a return to temperatures of 87 - 89 F ( 31 C) during incubation has shown to increase the percentage of success.  This cool down and warming cycle may be repeated until development is determined by candling to have started. 



The following is a photo essay of the successful captive incubation and hatching of Pyxis planicauda



Pyxis planicauda breeding


Eggs in an incubator with controlled humidity and temperate


Close up view of eggs


First hatching of this species by the author


Second egg pips while first is completing yolk sac absorption


Closer view of hatching process


Hatchling P. planicauda day 1, first hatchling has started to stretch out,  second still exhibits "folded" appearance.


Plastron view of hatchling P. planicauda at 1 day old.


Hatchlings - Day 1



1)  Iowa State University, Department of Entomology,  ent555  course notes - World Chelonian Trust


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