The giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands
It is not one, but 10 species of chelonians - two extinct - that inhabit the Galapagos Islands (there are no other anywhere in the world). In this article we will tell you about the incredible giant tortoise that we can find in this archipelago of Ecuador.
Characteristics of the giant tortoise of the Galápagos
Did you know that the Galapagos Islands? were they named in this way in 'honor' to the giant tortoises that the explorers and naturalists found when they arrived in the 16th century? Subsequently, Charles Darwin divided them into subspecies of a single family: Chelonoidis Nigra .
This is the largest chelonians that inhabit the planet, as they can measure more than two meters and weigh around 500 kilos. In addition, they have another record: that of longevity, since in the wild they can live more than 100 years.
Today we can find some examples of the giant tortoise in zoos and nature reserves of several parts of the world, where they reach no less than 170 years of life. Regarding its taxonomy, there are three different types of shells, which make it possible to differentiate them:
1. Dome-shaped carapace
These turtles mainly inhabit the highlands of the archipelago and in humid environments , such as those found in the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabela (in the latter specifically in the area of volcanoes.)
The dome-shaped carapace allows the giant tortoise to move among the dense vegetation without the danger of being trapped between the branches. In addition, it has a shorter neck than its 'relatives' and the breastplate is larger.
2. Saddle-shaped carapace
The giant tortoise of San Cristóbal is one of the clearest examples of this subgroup, which lives mostly in areas of low vegetation and desert. It has a special elevation in the front of the carapace, added to its long neck, which allows it to reach the tall leaves of the bushes or the cactus leaves.
3 . Intermediate carapace
Arguably a combination of the other two types of shells. One of the subspecies that has this characteristic is the giant tortoise of Santa Cruz.
Behaviors of the giant tortoise of the Galapagos
All the giant tortoises of the Galápagos islands are herbivores and do not have teeth. To feed they use their mouth finished in point, with which they cut leaves and fruits. Its diet is composed of plants, fruits, aquatic ferns, lichens and cacti.
They are eating as they find food available, even when they have not finished digesting what was consumed previously. , have the ability to spend a lot of time without drinking water, because they extract liquid from the plants. But when they meet a freshwater mirror, they do not hesitate to enjoy it and dive.
Another interesting feature is that the giant Galapagos tortoise is very slow and does not advance more than 300 meters hour. But this slowness is complemented by great resistance, since it can walk for three days without stopping to rest.
In the case of the giant tortoises that live in the wetter islands, they migrate after the end of the rainy season towards the mountainous area, where the grass is more abundant.These are placed on the head and are responsible for removing the ticks from its neck.
The giant tortoise is cold-blooded and, for this reason, spends a fair amount of time in the sunstrong> -at least two hours a day- especially in the mornings. It is active for a maximum of eight hours. In some cases, to maintain elevated body temperature, they submerge in wells of water and mud near volcanoes. In addition, these 'baths' allow them to protect themselves from parasites and insects such as mosquitoes.
There is no doubt that the giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands is a fascinating animal ... If we are lucky enough to visit this archipelago We will see them in various places while they eat. We can also follow the circular and deep footprints left in the mud or sand!