Just as you read it, Galapagos is home to the largest and most amazing tortoises in the world, it is a terrestrial species that is characterized mainly for being the largest of all the tortoises that exist.
Apart from being the largest of all, this is also the longest-lived, as it can live almost a century and a half.
George, the giant tortoise of the Galapagos, was a very well known and remembered character that lived in the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz. According to records, George was found on Pinta Island on November 1, 1971 by Hungarian zoologist Jozsef Valvalgyi. Because he was the only specimen of his species Chelonoidis abingdonii, he was named “Lonesome George”, one of the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. According to scientific data, Galapagos tortoises live between 80 and 130 years, which is why the publication Cultura Científica estimates that George was born between 1903 and 1919. Sadly, he died on June 24, 2012, of cardiac arrest.
These animals baptized these islands when they were discovered in 1535 as “Insulae de los Galopegos” (Turtle Islands), since the navigators found these giant turtles there, which they referred to as “galápago”, the word then used in Spanish as “tortuga”.
These tortoises are incredibly large and inhabit the Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos Islands. There are a few species of this type of tortoise and, therefore, they are within the giant tortoise family.
From their known name you can tell that they live in the Galapagos Islands. They are characteristic for being quite arid and dry. They are found in the Pacific Ocean. They are more frequently distributed in the higher altitude areas of the islands. This is because the higher altitudes are characterized by a more humid climate and more lush vegetation where, in addition to eating, they hide from predators.
Being a very large turtle logically consumes large amounts of food, which can be easily obtained in their habitat, they can eat about 50 different types of plants and vegetation, therefore, their diet consists mainly of grasses, leaves, various plants, cacti, fruits and even amphibians and crustaceans.
Their slow metabolism and ability to store large amounts of water allow them to survive up to a year without eating or drinking. Galapagos tortoises play a key role in shaping their ecosystem by dispersing plant seeds in their dung.
It is very common to observe them drinking and taking advantage of vitamin D from the sun as this helps them to strengthen their shells and this becomes a wonderful sight to watch.
Despite being a terrestrial species, these turtles also like to play in shallow water, either to hydrate themselves or to cool off when temperatures are very high.
Like all land tortoises, freshwater turtles also love to spend time in the sun, as they take advantage of the vitamin D from UV rays to strengthen their carapace, which is very imposing and strong, depending on the type of turtle, it can be rounded, dome-shaped or saddle-shaped.
Areas where there is water (whether in rivers, lakes or large ponds) are most likely to harbor giant tortoises. Although these turtles are land turtles, they need to cool themselves in water because they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. Whether it is hot or cold, they go into the water to cool off or bask in the sun to warm up.
The characteristics that these turtles possess are similar to the rest of the families. However, we could say that on a large scale. There are giant turtles that are capable of measuring up to 2 meters in length. This is achieved when they reach adulthood and can reach an average weight of 250 kilos. Depending on the type of species, their size and weight can be much greater.
They do not have teeth like the rest of turtles since they are herbivorous turtles, but this does not mean that their jaws are not strong, however, they have a powerful bony beak with a vital function to feed themselves or to move obstacles out of the way.
This species has five claws on its front legs and four claws on its hind legs. These claws make it easier for them to move through the terrain of their natural habitat.
Being a very large species, they have no natural predators, but their eggs and young are preyed upon by introduced species such as pigs, rats, dogs and red ants.
Their average life expectancy is around 100 years in the wild and usually extends to 170 years in captivity.
Also, depending on the type, many of them tend to be very lazy and prefer to seek shade to have a good time, while there are others that enjoy exploring.
Something surprising about this species is that they can sleep up to 16 hours a day because they are very lazy and prefer to seek shade to have a good time, however, there are others that enjoy exploring.
The skin of its head, neck and legs is covered with many scales and is grayish or black in color, while its carapace has light to medium brown shades.
It can reach 300 kg in the wild (even more in captivity) and is believed to live about 100 years. There are at least 10 different species of giant tortoises in Galapagos, which differ in size, shell shape and geographic distribution. Among the species there are two distinct shell shapes: domed and hydrodynamic, both of which have evolved due to differences in the height of the vegetation on which they feed.
It is super curious to know that, although they are lazy and sleepy, when it comes to feeding or mating, turtles turn up the revolutions and walk faster than normal.
The number of giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands has declined considerably. In the 19th century, when they were discovered, their population was estimated at 250,000. However, captive breeding programs have saved these tortoises from extinction and it is hoped that conservation programs will continue to help increase their population.