|Distribution of the desert tortoises aligned with Gopherus agassizii. The light gray depicts the range of the "Sonoran" population of the tortoise (Gopherus morafkai). Map from the research article published on ZooKeys.|
|This dude, Dr. James Graham Cooper, first officially "discovered" and described the desert tortoise in 1861 (obviously the tortoise was known to Native American's long before). Nearly 150 years later, DNA sampling and study of physiological and behavioral differences across the tortoise population revealed that we have been living with at least two different species! Photo from the research article published in ZooKeys, courtesy of the Archives of the California Academy of Sciences.|
The desert tortoise is a crucial species in the desert ecosystem, digging burrows that provide homes to other desert wildlife, including the Western burrowing owl, lizards, snakes, and small mammals.
|This desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) found in the western Mojave Desert is now officially different from its relatives across the Colorado River.|