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Archiv 2012

Veröffentlicht: 19.07.2012 Share it on Facebook

Schildkröten im Fokus, Bergheim 9 (2) 2012: 3–26

Hamiltons Gesetz, Selektion nach dem Verwandtschaftsgrad oder gar altruistisches Verhalten bei Spaltenschildkröten, Malacochersus tornieri? – Eine Beobachtung zum Sozialverhalten

Text und Bilder von Hans-Jürgen Bidmon, Düsseldorf

Hamilton’s rule, kin selection or even altruism in the pancake tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri? – An observation on social behaviour

Text and photos Hans-Jürgen Bidmon, Düsseldorf, Germany


The captive raising and maintenance of a young breeding pair of the pancake tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri is described. The 2 individuals were brought together as sub-adults. Since 2007 this pair reproduced continuously during the indoor season with one exception during which the eggs had been already deposited in the outdoor enclosure where they are kept during summer. Beginning with her first indoor nesting season the female buried the eggs in the ground within the artificial hiding shelter (crevice) of the male where they stayed until hatching. The male always leaves his favoured hiding place during the time period one of the eggs hatches but returns immediately after the hatchling is free. In one occasion the female deposited an unburied egg in the same place which resulted in complete abandoning of the male’s preferred shelter for the whole period of incubation. During that period the male stayed in the only other free artificial crevice which is usually not preferred by both parent tortoises. Both adults are not aggressive against their hatchlings. That unexpected behaviour of the male (father) is discussed in respect to Hamilton’s rule in terms of kin selection–and or altruism–theory. This observation made during captive breeding in combination with what is known about their isolated and restricted lifestyle (ecological niches) in the wild provides an indication that Malacochersus tornieri represents an excellent model reptile for studying the evolution of more complex social behaviour in response to crevice availability and predation pressure. That last suggestion is discussed in greater detail and on the basis of the available literature arguing also for more observations and input from institutional and other private breeders of this species.

Key words

Reptilia, Testudines, Testudinidae, Malacochersus tornieri, pancake tortoise, kin selection, altruism, cooperation, Hamilton’s rule, evolution biology, behavioural biology.


Hans-Jürgen Bidmon

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