|Official Name||Ridgeback Turtle|
|Common Nicknames||Daen Tortoise|
Ridgeback Turtles are diverse species of land-dwelling turtles from Daen and tropical areas of Corontium who have lived long lives and suffered much at the hands of multiple Races. In the modern-day the smallest subspecies tend to be kept as pets while the largest subspecies are rare today due to their large size producing copious materials for sailors and exotic goods dealers. Still, the animal is renowned across Aloria for its long lifespans and passive, gentle attitude.
Ridgeback Turtles have been a constant to the world of Aloria thanks to their presence on Daen and thus, their interactions with the Altalar since their earliest years. The Mapa Ridgebacks were the most common species on Daen for several centuries, and the Altalar knew well of the slow-moving “little elders” of nature who were a quick and easy meal if someone was truly desperate. But then came the discovery of the Niñi subspecies, even smaller Ridgebacks native to Daendroc and southern Ithania, soon followed by the discovery of the large Abuellta subspecies, located on the tropical, Daen-adjacent islands of Corontium. From there the lives of each subspecies were woven into the life of the Allorn Empire. They actively suffered as the Altalar grew more belligerent and arrogant, rejecting the parts of the Faith of Estel that encouraged them to protect nature, resulting in many Ridgeback Turtles being made into soups and other dishes for the growing number of Altalar obsessed with wealth and unique experiences. By the time of the Wildering, Ridgeback Turtles were rarely seen, and hid at the fringes of Altalar metropolises across Daen, and often under the care of the Cult of Cielonnia. Those in Corontium were also nearly rendered extinct due to Altalar expansion into those regions.
However, the Wildering changed everything. With massive portions of Daen restored to a pre-Allorn state, the Ridgeback Turtle population on the continent exploded. In the next 100 years of chaos, as Ailor and Asha slaves fought to free themselves of the Altalar, and as the Eronidas arrived, further causing chaos, animals recovered along with the nature that now surrounded them. The cultists of Cielonnia became the Cielothar, and in the coming decades, would trade domesticated members of the Niñi subspecies of the Ridgeback Turtle to Ailor as pets, who would then transport them back to the Regalian Empire and beyond. As for the Mapa and Abuellta subspecies, the Ailor were the next group to hunt them. While a few of the tropical islands of Corontium would ultimately be completely cleared of the Abuellta in particular, the creatures remain healthy in overall population numbers. However, the recent Dread War has raised concerns about the survival of the Mapa subspecies. Large areas of wild Teled Methen, the creature’s original homeland, were terraformed by the Kathar in their invasion, with scattered reports of large, darkshelled, and flesh-eating versions of the Ridegback being born from this action. But the Altalar have swept back into these regions and it should only be a matter of time until this toxic Void corruption is cleansed and those rumors either proven true or laid to rest.
Ridgeback Turtles have a wide variety in their features. However, there are still some commonalities and general statistics that can be stated. They range in size from six inches to sixteen inches (or a foot and a third) long with heights ranging from four to twelve inches. They have compact, incredibly boney heads with only a slight beak-look to their mouths. Their eyes are brown, dark blue, or dark green, and surrounded by the same wrinkled flesh that covers their long necks. These necks are often two or so inches, and allow the animal to lift their head up and down with ease. The rest of their body is robust, contained within a rounded, dome-like shell that protects their full back and their underbelly. While their sides and rear are generally sealed, the front of the shell has small curved ridges facing upward. Adding to this are a series of small, but vertically pointed ridges along the top of the shell that divide it in two. Their limbs are thick and feature wide, flat pads with four stubby nailed toes on the front legs, while the hind legs often have longer nails attached to their toes. The front pair are also more clearly scaled and protected than the rear set, which simply possess wrinkles. These legs are also more prominent than on other turtles, as Ridgebacks stand and move around on land, resulting in their knee joints being obvious and often weathered due to how the species sits. The animal generally has dark grey skin, though younger members often have entirely black skin. Additionally, the shells have a similar color scheme, mainly being black or dark grey, but further information on the differences can be read below.
Ridgeback Turtles are split equally by gender, and lack sexual dimorphism. Further features and specific traits of the individual subspecies can be read about below.
- Niñi Ridgebacks: Also known as the Yellow Ridgeback, Niñi Ridegbacks are the smallest of the Ridgeback species and the ones most commonly found in domesticated surroundings. Their shells and arms have yellow markings on them (often rather dull on the shell) and they commonly retain their black scale and shell covering far longer than other Ridgebacks, even into old age.
- Mapa Ridgebacks: Also known as Wood Ridgebacks or Pale Ridgebacks, this species is the medium-sized variety of the species. They commonly make their dwelling in forests and jungles with ease, and have beige or very pale brown markings on their bodies. This is so prominent on the shell that sometimes it appears almost like carved wood.
- Abuellta Ridgebacks: Also called Lowlying or Elder Ridgebacks, Abullta Ridgebacks are often the most rotund and largest members of the species. Their scattered presence across the tropical islands of Corontium, as well as on areas of the coastline, have made them rarer over the years than their relatives, but the species is well regarded in folktales of both the Ailor and Altalar as some of the wisest animals in Aloria.
Life Span and Development
Ridgeback Turtles are born in a number of small, ovular, pale yellow eggs about an inch long with the number laid depending on the size of the female. The eggs will increase in size with the baby within, and are buried underground. By the time that the Turtle emerges from the egg, they are small but fully independent copies of their missing parents. Over the next decade, they will gradually mature by which point both sexes will be fully viable to reproduce and have all their adult traits. The species generally live up to 60 years, but some members kept in captivity have reached 90 years old.
Ridgeback Turtles are generally simple in their minds, lacking much advanced thought processes. There are a few intriguing aspects though. For one, during the mating seasons males tilt and twist their heads in a certain way when they encounter another member of their species. Females do not however, and this appears to be the only method of gender identification within the species that they themselves actively engage in. Aside from this though, Ridgeback Turtles generally ignore other members of their species and live alone, feeding on the variety of plants that sustain them. Their usual response to danger is to curl up inside of their shell, though they may also try to bite the attacking predator.
Territory and Groupings
Ridgeback Turtles have a solitary existence and are spread out across Daen and the tropical regions of Corontium. They live in a diverse array of climates and have no set territories, moving around freely unless they encounter a formidable enough geographical formation. As for those in captivity, they are generally contained within whatever terrain is deemed most fit by their owner, which varies depending on the subspecies.
- Ridgeback shell shields are sometimes used by the Cielothar and Avanthar, though more often only portions of the shell are used in shielding or personal protection.
- Some believe that there was once a red-tinged member of the Ridgeback Turtle species native to the Far West. However, tales of the creature often end with the same line concerning their lack of speed, and thus, uselessness to the emerging Kathar, who slaughtered them for their meat and shells.