Galapagos giant tortoise
Tortuga gigante de las Galápagos
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
Click an image to view larger
Tortoise Movement Ecology
"Driven to extinction on some islands and the brink of extinction on others, tortoises are slowly recovering but remain threatened."
Tracking the movements of Galapagos giant tortoises allows us to better understand the ecology, health and reproduction of these iconic reptiles, and to protect them from human impacts.