Galapagos Day 3: Giant tortoises

Galapagos Day 3: Giant tortoises

There are 11 varieties of the Galapagos giant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus) remaining of the 15 found during Darwin’s time; they are endemic, found nowhere else on Earth. Their numbers were greatly impacted in two ways 1) Hunting; tortoises were taken by the hundreds aboard ships. They were an excellent food source, because they could live in the ship’s holds for up to a year without food or water. 2) Introduced species; ship rats devoured the young turtles and goats decimated the native vegetation. The Charles Darwin Research Station now conducts a successful captive breeding program and turtles are protected throughout the islands. DNA research will also lead to a better understanding of how these varieties evolved from a single ancestral species.



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