Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galapagos tortoise is the largest living tortoise. It can weigh over 500 pounds and measure 6 feet from head to tail. It is a very slow-moving animal, moving only 0.16 miles per hour. The Galapagos tortoise has a very large shell made of bone.

The shell can be domed, saddle-backed, or somewhere inbetween. Domed shells are found on tortoises that live in areas with lush vegetation. Saddle-back shells allow the tortoise to reach vegetation higher off the ground. This shell is more common in areas with less vegetation.

Food

The Galapagos tortoise is an herbivore that eats prickly pear cactus and fruits, bromeliads, water ferns, leaves, and grasses. They have tremendous water storage capacities, enabling them to survive the long arid season.

Habitat

The Galapagos tortoise is found on the Galapagos Islands just west of Ecuador in South America. Spanish explorers, because of the 250,000 tortoises that inhabited the island, named the islands Galapagos (Spanish for tortoise). Today only 15,000 are left.

Social Structure

The social structure of the Galapagos tortoise is a dominance hierarchy based on the height to which the tortoise can stretch its head.

Birth & Offspring

The Galapagos tortoise matures at 20-25 years of age. Compared to most tortoises, the birth rate of Galapagos tortoises is extremely low. Most tortoises can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. Howveer, the Galapagos tortoise only lays between 2 and 16 eggs. These eggs are laid in a hole dug by the mother. Then they are buried for incubation. The mother leaves, and the eggs hatch 4-8 months later. It takes the baby tortoises one month to dig out of the nest.

Senses

The Galapagos tortoise has a good sense of smell and smells all of its food before eating it.

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