The gopher tortoise

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), native to Florida, is a fascinating species of wild tortoise. They are grazing tortoises, adapted to live in sandy longleaf savannahs.

The most interesting thing about them, though, is their burrows. They dig burrows up to 15 meters long and 3 meters deep. Their native habitats end up crisscrossed with these burrows, which form an integral part of the ecosystem. The burrows dug by the gopher tortoise ends up serving as a shelter to all kinds of other animals too, from snakes to frogs to the bizarre Burrowing Owl. In fact, some ecologists believe that the burrows dug by the gopher tortoise are useful to over 400 other species! Not only do animal species use them, but plants do as well. Some research indicates that the presence of gopher tortoise burrows increases the amount of vegetation that grows, possibly by providing underground irrigation channels.