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Science Mill’s newest pals are tort-ally adorable!

The Science Mill in Johnson City now has three African spurred tortoise hatchlings, and you can help name them. Courtesy photo

The Science Mill of Johnson City recently welcomed new members to its family: three tiny African spurred tortoise hatchlings. Proud mother is Tortilla, one of three adult African spurred tortoises at the museum. As with any new baby, names are quite the big deal. So, the Science Mill is turning to you for help in coming up with monikers for its new marafiki (Swahili for “friends.”) Name suggestions will be taken through Sunday, August 18.

Tortoise hatchlings don’t stay tiny for long; they grow quickly. The African spurred tortoise is the largest mainland-dwelling tortoise. It starts out at about 2 inches but can quickly grow to around 30 inches in length and well over 100 pounds. Good news is that after 10 years, its growth slows.

Tortoises have become a popular pet, but owners soon find the creature to be a handful. In addition to its size, African spurred tortoises are known to have lively personalities, be intelligent and curious, and typically live 60-100 years.


Ever wondered what makes a tortoise different from a turtle? Turtles spend much of their time in water, tend to have webbed feet, and their shells are flatter. Tortoises live on land and have stubby feet and a heavy, domed shell. The African spurred tortoise originally hails from the Sahel region of Africa. They enjoy hot, arid environments — so Central Texas sort of feels like home.

Here are a few interesting facts about tortoises:

  • They have been around for roughly 220 million years.
  • Shells are permanently attached to their spine and rib cage.
  • They can feel pressure and pain through their shell.
  • Eggs incubate for about eight months before hatching.
  • Males become aggressive during mating season and can flip each other over.
  • A tortoise can die of hyperthermia if it falls on its back during a warm day.
  • They love to dig and have been known to burrow 10-20 feet deep.
  • During times of extreme temperature, they retreat underground.
  • They are herbivores and dine on grass, weeds, flowers, and cacti.
  • They can go for weeks without food or water.
  • A tortoise will drink up to 15 percent of its body weight.

Visitors to the Science Mill through August 18 will get to meet the hatchlings. The museum is also home to three adult African spurred tortoises and has daily feedings along with a question-and-answer time hosted by one of its staff biologists.

The Science Mill is located at 101 S. Lady Bird Lane in Johnson City. Visit the website or call 844-263-6405 ext. 1005 for more information.

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