The smallest tortoise, Homopus signatus, is inadequately protected, and information on its reproductive ecology can facilitate effective conservation. We combined X-ray radiography and ultrasonography to assess the reproductive status of free-ranging female Homopus signatus signatus during August–September 2000 (n = 30) and September–October 2001 (n = 29). Females produced only single-egg clutches but can produce more than one clutch in a season. Most (ca. 75%) of the females were gravid each spring, so H. s. signatus probably has a seasonal pattern of egg production. This pattern may be related to the seasonal climate; summers are hot and dry, yet winter rainfall is moderately predictable. Females were gravid from August through October, but further analyses are necessary to characterize the entire reproductive season and quantify clutch frequency. Large females produced large eggs, compared to eggs of small females. The smallest gravid female had a straight-line carapace length of 84.1 mm while the largest female measured 110.0 mm. Compared to gravid females, nongravid females were in poorer body condition (body mass and mass relative to carapace length) only in 2000, when there was lower rainfall and plant availability than in 2001. The difference in body mass approximated the mass of one egg. The low clutch size and fecundity suggest that populations have low intrinsic rates of natural increase. This plus their limited range and specific habitat requirements make H. s. signatus vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4