You will be in two camps here, the first being why you would want to crossbreed tortoise camp. You may not know why anyone would need to ask this question in the first place. However, if you keep multiple different tortoise species, you may want to know can tortoise crossbreed. The last thing responsible pet owners want is to breed tortoises that have issues.
Physically and biologically, tortoises can crossbreed with other genetically different tortoise species. However, it is actively discouraged to allow the process to happen. The resulting offspring of two different tortoise species would likely suffer severe health issues, and they are unlikely to have the ability to reproduce.
So it is possible tortoises could crossbreed, but the chances of producing offspring will be slim. However, small, it is still possible in scientific terms. The answer may leave you with more questions than answers if you are a multiple tortoises owner, and I aim to answer some logical follow-up answers below. You may even be surprised that you only have a different tortoise in name and not in genetics.
Why You Shouldn’t Allow Different Species to Interbreed
You would be forgiven for believing that tortoise all tortoise could crossbreed as other animals can, like dogs and cats. However, you have to be much more careful when breeding tortoises as they don’t benefit from crossbreeding when they are genetically different species. Science defines what can and cant crossbreed a little more on that in a moment; however, let us look at some of the problems you will run into first.
The first problem you are likely to run into when you attempt to crossbreed a tortoise that is genetically different species is how you will keep them together. A tortoise from the Mediterranean will have considerable differences in care from a tortoise from South American.
One is more likely to require their environment to be high temperatures and humidity all year round. However, on the other hand, you have a tortoise that wants a drier climate and lower temperatures to allow them to hibernate at some point during the year. Not to mention the dietary difference that you will need to overcome, making it a logistical nightmare if not impossible.
The size difference will be your next problem as a different tortoise can be vastly different in size. Having a tortoise that is breeding with another with a large size difference will likely lead to damage to the smaller species or even worse.
Suppose you manage to crossbreed tortoise from genetically different species groups successfully. Unfortunately, their offspring will be infertile and will not produce their own babies when they reach adulthood.
Science determines something being successfully in crossbreed if the resulting babies can successfully produce babies themselves. A tortoise that are from genetically different species is infertile, so science says tortoise can’t crossbreed.
The resulting offspring doesn’t necessarily mean they will have an unhealthy life while there is a risk.
Cross Breeding That Isn’t Actually Cross Breeding
Ok, so this is what catches us out sometimes when crossbreeding isn’t crossbreeding, and you are just breeding different variations of the same species.
Let us go with an example to explain this scenario best. You have a cherry head tortoise and a red foot tortoise that you want to interbreed. To some surprise, they are the same species cherry heads are red foot tortoise. The difference being they come from a different location. Their location is the only reason they look different because of evolution, but they are genetically the same species.
The outcome will produce fertile offspring and create and live a happy, healthy life.
Due to their similar nature, between the red foot and cherry head tortoise, it would be hard to prove that the hatchlings are from a different species group if they were to breed successfully.
To fully prove you have successfully crossbreed a tortoise subspecies, you need DNA testing to give conclusive proof.
Cross Breeding Tortoises Back From Extinction
So, up to now, we have discovered you can, in certain instances, crossbreed, and science say whether it is possible or not. Science steps back into the arena to help crossbreed species on the endangered list or believed to be extinct.
The most famous case of science helping a species come back from the brink of being extinct was on the Galapagos islands. The Islands are famous for housing 15 species of the world’s most gigantic tortoises. The discovery of these tortoises was discovered and documented by English naturalist, geologist, and biologist Charles Darwin.
After their discovery, they were soon hunted to extinction by man for their meat and unproven medicine. Fortunately, some subspecies that survived the hunting allowed science to discover genetic similarities to the giant tortoise breeds.
Helping bring back some species that were once extinct a marvel of science. However, it will take many years and several generations of breeding until they achieve a tortoise with the same genetic makeup as once extinct tortoises.
We discovered that keeping tortoises from a different species will be the first hurdle you need to overcome. Once you have and if you happen to crossbreed to genetically different species successfully, the offspring will be infertile and unable to produce their own offspring. Science says this is there indication that two animals can not successfully crossbreed.
However, if you want to crossbreed two tortoises that are genetically the same species, you can. Even if they have different names, you will need to check out their genetics to see if possible.
Then we finally discovered that science is using crossbreeding to bring back tortoises from extinction. A process that will take many years but resulting in us seeing a tortoise we once thought was extinct.
As a tortoise owner, my advice for crossbreeding would check that your tortoise is genetically the same species before allowing crossbreeding to happen. You want a tortoise to have a full and fulling life producing offspring is part of that for a tortoise. I am not mentioning any problems that may come from crossbreeding genetically different species to the offspring’s health.