We investigate a cornucopia of problems associated with the identity of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii Cooper. The date of publication is found to be 1861, rather than 1863. Only one of the three original cotypes exists, and it is designated as the lectotype of the species. Another cotype is found to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire. The third is lost. The lectotype is genetically confirmed to be from California, and not Arizona, USA as sometimes reported. Maternally, the holotype of G. lepidocephalus Ottley et Velázques Solis, 1989 from the Cape Region of Baja California Sur, Mexico is also from the Mojavian population of the desert tortoise, and not from Tiburon Island, Sonora, Mexico as previously proposed. A suite of characters serve to diagnose tortoises west and north of the Colorado River, the Mojavian population, from those east and south of the river in Arizona, USA and Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico, the Sonoran population. Species recognition is warranted and because G. lepidocephalus is from the Mojavian population no names are available for the Sonoran species. Thus, a new species, Gopherus morafkai sp. n., is named and this action reduces the distribution of G. agassizii to only 30% of its former range. This reduction has important implications for the conservation and protection of G. agassizii, which may deserve a higher level of protection.