Term of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

David Rostal

Committee Member 1

Denison McLain

Committee Member 2

Lance McBrayer


Accelerated growth in tortoises has traditionally been associated with potential health risks, however empirical evidence in the literature is lacking. In captivity, growth rates of tortoises are generally expected to exceed those of natural populations and the main cause is probably due to differences in diet. In the context of captive management programs for the purpose of reintroduction, diets that increase growth rates are deemed important because larger animals are less subject to predation and rapid growth permits earlier release, reducing overall cost and effort. To assess the influence of diet on growth and health of captive hatchling tortoises, we compared growth rates, sprint speeds, and blood chemistry parameters of gopher tortoise hatchlings reared on four different diets over a period of 168 days. Tortoises fed Mazuri brand tortoise diet or a mixture of horse feed and vegetables had significantly higher growth rates than those fed a mixture of supermarket greens. Calcium supplementation of supermarket greens had no effect on growth rate or sprint speed. Significant differences were also received in blood chemistry. The goal is to use this information to make recommendations that improve the success and feasibility of captive management programs.