This largest tortoise is believed to be among the most primitive of living tortoises, based on molecular and morphological studies. This is the only tortoise which lays its eggs above ground in a nest, which the female constructs of leaf litter. The female uses both front and rear legs to gather material for the nest and lays up to 50 eggs deep inside it. She then sits on and near the nest to protect it, and will ‘chase’ predators and intruders away. This largestconsist of two :
- phayrei: N/W to ; Type locality: Arakan; Provinces’. M. e. phayrei has been named after (1812–1885), British officer in who became Commissioner of .
- Manouria emys emys: S Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, ; Type locality: Sumatra. M. e. emys has separated pectoral scutes while M. e. phayrei has joined pectoral scutes.
In Indonesia they are spread in the forest hills, paticularly in. Some people collect from the wild to sell this tortoises. Even, some local people eat this tortoises to be a kind of desert when they drink alcohol. They are also facing losing habitat due to the conversion of forest to be palm plantation and development.
The largest tortoise in mainland; large adult of the northern subspecies, M.e. phayrei, can reach 25 kg in the wild and much more than that in captivity. considerably depressed, its depth not half its length; margins reverted, more or less strongly serrated; nuchal present; supracaudal shields two; dorsal shields concentrically striated, often concave; much broader than long and at least as broad as costals.
Plastron large, gular region somewhat produced and usually notched, hind lobe deeply notched; the pectoral shields may be widely separated from each other, or from a short median suture; axillary shield very small, inguinal large. Head moderate; two large prefrontal shields and a large frontal; beak not hooked; jaws feebly denticulated, the alveolar surface of thewith a strong median ridge.
Fore limb anteriorly with very large, bony, pointed, imbricate, forming four or five longitudinal series; with very large bony tubercles on the plantar surface, with others larger, conical, and spur-like on the heel, and a group of still larger conical tubercles on each side on the back of the thighs. Adult or blackish; carapace of young yellowish brown, with dark-brown markings.