The escape behaviour of wild Greek tortoises <em>Testudo graeca</em> with an emphasis on geometrical shape discrimination

  • Alexandra Glavaschi
  • Ellen S. Beaumont Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby, DE22 1GB, UK;


Geometrical shape discrimination has been shown to play an important role in the spatial orientation of a wide variety of mammals and birds, while the study of this ability in particular and of cognitive processes in general has been rather neglected in reptiles. The present experiment aims to investigate the ability of wild Greek tortoises Testudo graeca from Topolog forest, Tulcea County, Romania, to discriminate between simple geometrical shapes. Forty-two adult tortoises were subjected to a task consisting of escaping from a square arena through one of the four available doors, each with a geometrical shape attached. Thirty-one individuals completed 10 consecutive trials, requiring significantly less time for the last trial than for the first. This trend suggests that Greek tortoises developed and used an escape strategy, most likely relying on the geometrical shapes provided as cues. This experiment is the first to explore the cognitive processes of this species and further work should expand on the ecological significance of this ability.

Research Papers