“true” south African Leopards

When all is said and done, buy the tortoise you like, that appeals to you, maybe based on the breeding adults that produced it.

From at question “Is there any pure pardalis pardalis leopard tortoise still exist in US!?” seen on-line.

I responded at first …

This links to the paper that indicates there is but one species of Leopard Tortoise.


These authors reference (Bell 1828), but that is not in their Bib, I learned that is a NoNo, but maybe it is okay.

So, to Loveridge 1935 and Loveridge and Williams 1957 (as referenced in Frits et al.), to see what criteria they used to separate out the one from the other (Stigmochelys pardalis pardalis from Stigmochelys padalis babcocki). If the breeders meet that criteria, then they are what is S.p.p. by those authors.


Clade is a word used to describe one group from another. http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/wp-content/uploads/file/Articles/Fritz_etal_2010a.pdf     “Clade” has become jargon, in that it is used for different reasons at different scales of size with taxonomy. It is for inclusion or exclusion based on the trait of interest.

The follow-up to my first response is a cut and paste of the pivotal texts. . .


This image from Sowerby and Lear is said by Loveridge and Williams to be THE type specimen that Bell used to suggest these are S.p.p. and the other are S.p.b. .


Read the diagnosis.

Now you know what is a true S.p.p. from an S.p.b. based on that taxonomic use of the time.

But as Fritz has pointed out shape and size are not uniform per genetic haplotype.

So what you all are calling True Sp.p. are just a group selected-for by traits you like. That is great, and a rarer set of traits or traits that are more desirable are worth seeking if you like them. However that makes them a breed like a dog breed.
vive la différence

One Comment on ““true” south African Leopards

  1. I have heard, with the scandalous underbelly of that perspective, that the ten animals in one collection that have formed the basis of the alleged “true” geographic variant, formerly called Geochelone pardalis pardalis, came from the Pretoria zoo, they were not field collected at all. They were imported through Germany to the USA. The diagnostic used for the analysis of source is purely morphology (how they look). To the best of my awareness none have been genetically types.

    In Ecology and evolution this would equate them to a similar genetic bottle neck referred to as ‘founder effect’ where the selection is not so much survival based on the trials of reproducing and growing in a new place, as much as being selected for by aesthetic traits.

    AND that’s okay, when you pick an animal out as a pet, you should pick one out that you like. But conflating scientific nomenclature with a certain suite of aesthetic traits is not taxonomy.

    That other breeders have directly imported animals from the South African region that the ‘pure’ animals come from, that both do and do not conform to this aesthetic, does challenge the taxonomy argument for a basis to determine what is ‘pure’ or not.

    It may be a convenient handle to use antiquated taxonomic nomenclature, but it is not science, a guarantee of any purity, or a reason to seek one animal over another. Buy what you like based on how it looks and how the parents look.

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