The gopher tortoise’s presence is important to more than 350 species that benefit from the burrows gopher tortoises dig. Because gopher tortoises alter their environment in a way that benefits other species, they are recognized as a keystone species. Animals that obtain food, refuge, and other benefits from the burrows are known as gopher tortoise commensal species. A healthy and widespread gopher tortoise population is necessary for commensal species populations to exist.
Dependence on gopher tortoise burrows varies among commensal species, but for some the burrows are essential. Burrows provide a relatively constant microhabitat that offers protection from fire and inclement weather. Species that are believed to depend significantly on resources provided by the gopher tortoise burrow or its community of inhabitants are known as priority commensals. Below you will find common vertebrate and invertebrate commensal species associated with the gopher tortoise as outlined in the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan .
View a fact sheet containing commensal species information.
View a Flickr photo gallery of commensal species.
Vertebrates | Invertebrates