Project Description

Northern Spider Tortoise

Pyxis arachnoides

Aquarium Location



Prefers arid to semi-arid habitats that have sandy soils and low lying vegetation generally made up of thorny shrubbery and succulents. They inhabit areas of 30% – 50% canopy coverage because they rely on this cover for thermal regulation.


Endemic to the arid coastal regions of southwestern Madagascar where it is distributed from the coast to about 20 km inland. The three subspecies are geographically divided with the Northern spider tortoise being the most northern of the species.


Feeds on grasses, roots of succulents, insects, and larvae typically during the wet season when vegetation is more lush.

Fun Facts

Known to feed on larvae living in cow dung.
Due to the lack of a hinge on their plastron, this subspecies of spider tortoise is unable to close up its shell.
Smallest of its genus.
Very popular in the pet trade because of the unique and beautiful markings on the carapace.
Because of their diet, they could influence the composition of the vegetation within its habitat.

Cool Adaptation

Many spider tortoises will bury themselves deep in the sandy soils and remain dormant throughout the colder and drier season. This behavior demonstrates an energy and moisture saving tactic when vegetation is scarce.

Conservation Connection

Even though protected by law in Madagascar, the protection of these animals is difficult to enforce with so many numbers leaving the country in support of the exotic pet trade. The spider tortoise (including all three subspecies) is Critically Endangered.