Hitting the Trifecta

Any zoo or breeding facility that produces one of the three subspecies of Spider Tortoise (pyxis arachnoides) from Madagascar can consider the breeding season season successful. A spectacular year would see the arrival of all three. Last Saturday marked just such a year for my zoo.

The first to hatch this year was the Northern Spider tortoise.

Pyxis arachnoides brygooi, the Northern Spider tortoise


Then we added a Common Spider tortoise.

Pyxis arachnoides arachnoides, the Common Spider tortoise which, despite its name, is endangered.


On Saturday, I stopped by the Herpetology department to soak the larger tortoises. While I was there, we checked out the incubator, and who should we spot?

Pyxis arachnoides oblonga, the Southern Spider tortoise


It’s cause for celebration when one of these species hatches. It’s a banner year that sees all three of them. I removed it from the incubator box and set it up in a container of its own. While I was giving it the first misting, I got the surprise of my life. I saw movement in the incubator box.


This egg is pipping. The process takes hours. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

One hind leg out, one foreleg out.

It's sideways in its shell. Its hind leg is on the left, its foreleg is resting on the edge of the eggshell on the right. You can see the dark blotches on its plastron, which is how this species is identified.



39 thoughts on “Hitting the Trifecta

  1. So question – It looks like they are born with their shells! I thought they came into the world shell’less (Is that even a word?) and developed them as they went. How freakin’ cool? Is it a defense mechanism?

    • They ARE born with their shells, but for the first couple of days, the shell is kind of soft. After about 48 hours, they harden. The shell contains the tortoises spine, so it continues to grow with the turtle or tortoise for as long as they live.

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