ECORP’s Michael Tuma Contributes to Book on Desert Tortoises and Other North American Tortoise Species


ECORP Senior Biologist and desert tortoise specialist Michael Tuma authored a chapter in the new book Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises published in July by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Tuma’s contribution – Chapter 17: History of Human Interaction, co-authored by his dissertation advisor Craig Stanford – explores the prehistoric and historic use of tortoises by humans. In developing the chapter, Tuma drew upon his expertise as both an anthropologist and wildlife biologist. “I found myself searching through stacks of archaeological site reports to determine where tortoise remains had been recovered,” said Tuma. “Everywhere I looked, the story was the same – humans have been eating tortoises for a long time.” Tuma’s research also indicated that cultural preferences for eating tortoises still exist today, despite the protections put in place to outlaw their harvest. He found evidence that all five species of North American tortoises have been targeted as food items for more than 10,000 years, a trend that continues today.

Providing the first comprehensive treatment of North America’s tortoises, Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises brings together leading experts to give an overview of tortoise morphology, taxonomy, systematics, paleontology, physiology, ecology, behavior, reproduction, diet, growth, health, and conservation. The contributors carefully combine their own expertise and observations with results from studies conducted by hundreds of other researchers. The result is a book that belongs in the library of every herpetologist. Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises was edited by David C. Rostal, Earl D. McCoy, and Henry R. Mushinsky and is available from major book sellers.