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Depending on the species, they grow to 6 to 8 inches, 15-20cm for most, with the Serrated (Kinyxys erosa) reaching 12 inches, 30cm. The carapace colors, shape, and texture vary by species. Females often have more colorful shells. The carapace shape is interesting and distinctive. The shell slopes from a high point over the hips to a lower, flared area over the head and shoulders. The rear part of the carapace is serrated or toothed in most species, and is actually hinged between the 4th and 5th costals so it can close over the entire hind end.
Courtship is fairly simple and generally involves nudging, pushing, or moving the female. If she stays, mating will occur. Because of the angle of the female's shell the male may be at such an open angle that he may be unable to touch his forelimbs to the female's back. Males often make groaning hisses and other noises during mating with one reviewer mentioning that they are the loudest species they have kept.
This is an interesting species that is considered by some to be a bit more challenging to care for, and sometimes considered a bit sensitive in captivity. Many captives do well for several years then suddenly decline. Parasite loads are one possible reason for this, but the high humidity needs and other care elements may be another.
They are a very territorial species and should not be mixed with other species, but several reports suggest they do best in groups
Eggs are laid in nests, which for some species may be piles of leaves. Rainy seasons probably trigger courtship and/or laying. Eggs are rather large and may benefit from the ability of the shell to flex when laying. A normal clutch is 2-4 eggs, although a large Bell's may lay twice that many. Most species can produce multiple clutches in a year.
Hatchlings range 1.5 to 2 inches. Most species other than Bell's have strongly serrated marginals (which may help with camouflage as well as making them harder to eat.) They are not born with the hinge and are often mistaken for young Homopus or Pad-loper tortoises. The hinge appears at about 2 years old.
Most often called hingeback or hinged tortoises, the genus name of Kinyxys comes from two roots- kineo meaning 'to move', and ixus for waist or back. The exact number of species and sub-species varies depending on the source.
Hingebacks are famous and unique due to the ability to close the back part of the shell over their hind limbs, likely as protection from big cats and other powerful predators. Most species are considered at least threatened and several are very endangered. They are a significant food source in most of their range, some people using trained dogs to locate them. There is also pressure from over-collection for the pet trade and habitat loss.
Nauti-Lass Ponds & Critters, Inc.
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