I am wondering what kind of physical qualities (E.g. Short, thick pillar-like legs) a creature such as this would need to support such an incredible size. The world that it evolves on in almost identical to earth in all respects save for the surface, which is covered in mostly thick, giant, interlocking trees. The shell must be as it is in the image as it is an important plot device.

A reference to the creature in question, or at least a poor representation of it, is shown below.enter image description here

This image is poorly edited and does not represent proper anatomical proportions. Namely, the legs, which should be much thicker and stockier. As well as the head and neck vertebrae.

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    $\begingroup$ Can we call it "Clyde" for short ? :-) $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 1 '19 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ Where, in my lunchbox? What planet? Assuming a planet that is. Please edit your question to provide parameters. A hyper-massive jupiter/asteroid floating through inter-galactic space, the centre of a mainline G-type star or in a space-station the size of Atlanta, with 3 mushrooms - dude - define your parameters. Adaptations to what? $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. May 1 '19 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Let me clear things up, the question in hand is what adaptations an animal that size would need to be, well, that size. $\endgroup$ – MintySoftboi May 2 '19 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I did a thorough re-read and I saw the many errors I had made and corrected them. I hope my question better fits the rules of the website. I'm really sorry about this, I can be a bit of a ditz sometimes. $\endgroup$ – MintySoftboi May 2 '19 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG I like that a lot. Their scientific name will be Magnus Clydeus, and their common name Clyde as you suggested. :-) $\endgroup$ – MintySoftboi May 2 '19 at 2:16

If the shell can slide, then you have no problems. The shell supports the mass, and the legs are basically used to propel it: they are rams/paddles to push it forward or rotate it, rather than struts to support it.

Unfortunately, a big, cumbersome shell is the worst option for maneuvering on a tree-covered planet ...unless something is big enough that it can push over trees.

Oh hey, you know what stuff slides really well on?


Stuff slides really well on logs. Trust me, I've been a lumberjack. Especially when it's wet, such as in a rainforest, wood is super slippery. Vegetation in general, in fact. Slippy, slippy, slippy.

We humans use logs for rails, and they're great, at least if the wood is long and straight, like rainforest trees.

Now, branches might get in the way, but a vegetarian behemoth that knocks over trees could both eat them out of the way, and snap them off with its bulk. They're not an obstacle, they're lunch.

Child-tortoises would be able to walk and forage just like regular tortoises, but past a certain size, they'd be unable ot fit between the trees. These adolescents would likely need to follow tracks laid by their larger elders, filled only with saplings and younger trees, until they can push over their own trees.

So "tortoise roads" would likely form in this way, long paths of younger trees that would be easier for these beasts to travel through the forest, forming loops that might take a lifetime, from their egg-laying-grounds and back.

These roads would become small smooth valleys across the land, attracting water and becoming slicker and easier to slide in. Younger tortoises might avoid them (bad to be stuck in a slippery gulley filled with water that you can't climb out of) and might take other paths through the undergrowth.

Backtracking will likely be harder for them the larger they grow, as it's easy enough to slide down from an uprooted tree's bole to the canopy, but harder to make your way back up against the direction of the branches and up over the root bole.

So if they get stuck in a circle of cliffs or trees too large for them to handle, they may become stuck, and possibly die, once they have eaten the foliage around them. Another reason to stick to the tortoise roads.

Similarly if they get bogged down, but again, felled trees will help them there, spreading out their weight. Trees are extra-slippery in the wet, too. downside is, there's little stable ground to push against with your feet to make yourself slide.

There's a reason for some at least to branch out from the tortoise roads, though. If a road has been stripped bare by previous tortoises, then the next one to come along will have to find another path, if its lucky finding some older but still not-too-overgrown road; otherwise perhaps finding a gap where one of the great old trees had fallen, clearing a new path.

Similarly if a road had become too swampy.

And similarly, I suspect, if two tortoises met. The one behind, having nothing to crush and little to eat, is likely to be making its way along the road rather more quickly than the one in the lead. But since they are large, it cannot simply walk past the leader. So, other than perhaps a brief stop to mate, they'd need to split off and find their own way.

A third tortoise, coming to this fork after the others have passed on, might prefer the new-trodden path as being more verdant; or the older path as safer and more reliable. I guess it'd depend on the personality of the tortoise.

Now, ideally the beast would have a far longer keel than is afforded by that shell, for more weight distribution when sliding. But the body can provide a lot of that. And ideally the front of the shell would be of a shape suited to pushing over trees. The forelegs could be good for digging, to weaken and rend the roots on the near side of the tree, the better to push it over.

Of course, if the trees are truly ginormous and distantly spaced enough that even something this size can dance between them, then none of this might be an issue anyway.

Even then, the core answer ("the shell is a sled") still remains.


Lose or at least heavily reduce the shell, it would probably weight too much for an animal of that size and it wouldn't be needed for defense anyway, barring some truly fearsome predators. I see you already made the legs more pillar-like, so no need to change anything there. Sauropods in real life used a complex system of internal air pockets to reduce their weight, turtles don't have anything of that sort in their evolutionary line, so as a rule of thumb make the animal a bit less voluminous than a sauropod of similar size. Huge guts for digesting huge quantities of plant matter are also essential, as at that size it will need to rely on quantity over quality to keep itself fed.

  • $\begingroup$ Weigh too much where? In intergalactic space? On Jupiter, Mercury? Please read the help center, like it sais - answer well-asked questions: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. May 1 '19 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry I don't understand what you mean. The question seems to imply a terrestrial habitat, so I don't think further clarification is needed, if that's what you are referring to. $\endgroup$ – Inquisitive Geek May 1 '19 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's tagged with the "reptiles" tag, it mentions tortoises and in general I tend to assume that if the conditions of the planet or the environment were radically different from earth they would have been mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Inquisitive Geek May 1 '19 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ @DewiMorgan My intention was not to cause offense, I fear that my comments are too opinion based sometimes. The tone of voice that I would have used in real life to soften what I say doesn't come across online - I'm happy to continue learning how to use this medium in a way more consistent with good-will and the forum rules. $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. May 17 '19 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Hoyle'sghost I've deleted my comment, and am sorry :( I was aggressive and inappropriate, especially to someone whose posts and comments I always enjoy. I agree, tone's hard... but I fersure can do better than I did! $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan May 17 '19 at 16:46

There are two good ways to have animals become larger.

The first, is cooler temperatures. Animals tend to become bulkier with shorter limbs in order to conserve body heat, see: Bergmann & Allen's Rules. Bear in mind that cold-blooded organisms like tortoises may not be able to survive in colder conditions.

The second option, is higher concentrations of oxygen in the atmosphere. This is believed to have contributed to the evolution of very large arthropods early in the phanerozoic, as well as the appearance of larger mammals in the Cenozoic.

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    $\begingroup$ The third would be water - blue whales and all. The fourth would be liquid methane, the fifth, ethane, ... hexafluorane ... Jolly good answer, but irrelevant since the conditions have not been established. $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. May 1 '19 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Agrajag Really, all worldbuilding questions should start by defining the Hoyle State in their universe to establish that carbon-based biochemistry is even possible... $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII May 1 '19 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ At least some rudimentary parameters should be set. At least it should be established if this animal is aquatic or land based, on a planet with Earth like gravity or a super Jupiter. The OP needs to be more specific about parameters $\endgroup$ – Bitter dreggs. May 1 '19 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Agrajag Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I'll make sure I'm less careless about parameters in future questions. : ) $\endgroup$ – MintySoftboi May 2 '19 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Hoyle'sghost You make good points in your comments, but address the question and suggest improvement try not to make it about the user, they may not know what you know. $\endgroup$ – James May 17 '19 at 16:27

A larger body means dealing with all the caprices of gravity. This problem has been addressed in the future is wild series. The toraton is a descendent of the tortoise. Its legs are much thicker. They are set-up under the body, not on its sides. It can no longer retract into its shell, but the shell is still useful in supporting body and muscles.


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