Galapagos Tortoise: fascinating facts about them
Updated: Feb 9
With islands named after them, there is no doubt that Galapagos tortoises are one of the most formidable species in the world. They inhabit the Galapagos Islands, 972 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador, becoming one of its greatest treasures that scientific experts work to protect.
What do we know about Galapagos tortoises? The first thing is that they are endemic, which means that their habitat is the islands, and they are not found anywhere else on the planet - at least, in a natural way. There are 13 species living on the island, and all are herbivores.
The Galapagos are the largest species of tortoise existing, weighing more than 200 kilos and measuring almost 2 meters. They are also one of the longest-lived invertebrate animals, exceeding 150 years of life. The record is 175 years old!
If you travel to the Galapagos Islands, you will see them throughout the year, especially near the Alcedo Volcano and on Santa Cruz Island. It won't be difficult to locate them since they rest 16 hours a day, and their metabolism allows them to survive without eating or drinking water for almost a year. They fulfill an essential function in the islands' ecosystem: they are in charge of dispersing the fruit seeds in their manure.
There are two categories of Galapagos tortoises - established by the naturalist researcher Charles Darwin - based on their shell. Mountain island tortoises have a domed carapace and a short neck; those on dry, flat islands have an adapted shell (like a saddle) and long legs so they can eat from taller cacti.
Despite being impressive animals, history has not been favorable to them. The tortoise population was devastated after the island discovery in 1535. Old marines used to take advantage of their meat and the oil produced with their body. Fortunately, today they are a protected species, and scientists are doing a hard work to increase their population throughout the island.
One last piece of information: did you know that Galapagos is an old Spanish term that means turtle? The first time the island appeared on a map was in 1570, when the cartographer Abraham Ortelios called it Insulae de los Galopegos or Island of the Turtles.
Do not miss the opportunity to see this wonderful species up close and enjoy an unforgettable trip through the Galapagos Islands, the planet's largest natural laboratory.