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Galapagos giant tortoise

Galapagos giant tortoise
© Anna Disegna

Common name:

Galapagos giant tortoise

Scientific name:

Chelonoidis spp.

Spanish name:

Tortuga gigante de las Galápagos

Conservation status:



Average lifespan:

100+ years

Average size:

1.5 metres

Maximum size:

1.8 metres

Average weight:

250 kilograms

Maximum weight:

400 kilograms


The Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the most famous animals of the Islands, with the Archipelago itself being named after them (Galapágo is an old Spanish word for tortoise). The giant tortoise arrived in Galapagos from mainland South America 2-3 million years ago, where they underwent diversification into 14 species, differing in their morphology and distribution. After the death of Lonesome George in 2012, the last Pinta island tortoise, twelve living species are thought to remain in Galapagos across ten islands.  

Giant tortoises show large variation in size and shape but all species can be classed into two main shell types: domed and saddle-backed. Dome-shelled tortoises lack an upward angle to the front of their carapace (shell), restricting the extent to which they can raise their heads. They tend to live on large, humid islands where there is lots of vegetation to eat. Saddle-backed tortoises have an upward curve to the front of their carapace, which allows them to stretch up to reach higher growing plants. They tend to live on arid islands in Galapagos, where food is less abundant.

Giant tortoises in Galapagos

How you can help

Please help us save the Galapagos giant tortoise by donating today or by adopting a tortoise.

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