Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991-2015

Open-File Report 2016-1023
By: , and 



Agassiz’s desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, was considered a single species for 150 years after its discovery by James Cooper (1861), with a geographic range extending from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah southward into northern Sinaloa, Mexico (Murphy and others, 2011). What was once G. agassizii is now recognized as a complex composed of three sister species, G. agassizii, G. morafkai, and G. evgoodei (Murphy and others, 2011; Edwards and others, 2016) (fig. 1). The geographic range of Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise (G. agassizii) is now limited to north and west of the Colorado River (Murphy and others, 2011), with the exception of a small population in northwestern Arizona (Edwards and others, 2015). This annotated bibliography is based on peer-reviewed journal articles published between January 1991 and December 2015 on Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise, with the geographic range as defined by Murphy and others (2011). Studies pertaining to other species of Gopherus (e.g., G. morafkai), were included only when associated with G. agassizii. In addition to articles pertaining directly to desert tortoises, we compiled articles concerning threats to desert tortoises and the habitats they occupy. Similarly, we only included studies that encompass other habitat types when they were directly compared with habitats of G. agassizii.

Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise (hereinafter called desert tortoise) is a state- and federally-listed threatened species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1990; California Department of Fish and Game, 2015). The first population federally listed as threatened occurred on the Beaver Dam Slope, Utah (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1980). In 1990, the entire geographic range north and west of the Colorado River was federally listed as threatened (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1990), with the exception being a small population in northwestern Arizona. The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to support recovery efforts for the species, because populations have continued to decline in spite of designation of critical habitat and publication of a recovery plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1994). For example, between 2005 and 2014, populations in critical habitats declined about 50% (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2015).

Suggested Citation

Berry, K.H., Lyren, L.M., Mack, J.S., Brand, L.A., and Wood, D.A., 2016, Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991–2015: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1023, 312 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1.—Introduction
  • Chapter 2.—Paleontology, Paleoecology, Taxonomy, and Genetics 
  • Chapter 3.—Recent Descriptions of Distribution, Habitat Use, and Climate 
  • Chapter 4.—Behavior, Shelters, and Home Ranges 
  • Chapter 5.—Foraging Behavior, Digestion, and Nutrition 
  • Chapter 6.—Reproduction and Endocrinology
  • Chapter 7.—Physiology 
  • Chapter 8.—Health and Disease 
  • Chapter 9.—Population Attributes 
  • Chapter 10.—Anthropogenic Impacts to Desert Tortoise Habitat with Management Recommendations: Part 1
  • Chapter 11.—Anthropogenic Impacts to Tortoises: Part 2. Subsidized Predators, Predator Ecology, and Implications for Tortoise Recovery and Management
  • Chapter 12.—Managing Desert Tortoises and Their Habitats
  • Chapter 13.—Literature Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Desert tortoise annotated bibliography, 1991-2015
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1023
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161023
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description iv, 312 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details