Tag Archive: Tortoises

Geochelone nigra  (Testudinidae)


MATING: Galápagos Tortoises mate by internal fertilization from December to May with the females laying eggs from June through November in the arid zone at lower elevations.

INCUBATION: The eggs are collected by Park rangers and incubated at breeding centers in the Galápagos (Isabela and Santa Cruz) Islands.

They are put in the same position in which they were found so as not to harm the embryo. Incubation takes 90-120 days with temps. less than 83〫F  producing males and higher producing females.

NEWBORNS:  Newborns are kept in terrariums for the first two years of their life to protect them from predators such as rats and cats.

ADAPTATION PENS:  The young turtles aged 2-6 years old are kept in a protective area with food and water similar to the wild where they will be released.  When they reach 20-25 cm long they are released into the wild.  They are identified while in captivity by color-coated paint to show their Islands of origin individual ID number.

SEX: Until they are 12-20 years sex cannot be visually differentiated.  The adult males have a much longer tail and are usually larger than the females.

ADULTS: Grow to up to 600 pounds (270kg) and females to about 110 pounds (50kg). Shells average just over a yard in length.  Isabella has about 6000 tortoises the most of any Island.  Adults can live to 170 years in captivity.

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Geochelone nigra (Testudinidae)

Distribution: Native the Galápagos Islands.

Habitat: On islands with  dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with saddleback shells and long necks. Domed tortoises live at higher altitudes in thick shrubbery which is also their food.

Appearance: A longer neck and legs with a saddle shaped shell help this tortoise reach shrubs and cactus branches beyond its reach.

Diet: Primarily tree like cactus of the genus Opuntia.

Remarks: Smaller body size allows for more rapid cooling than the larger Domed race which live at higher altitudes where it is cooler.

California Academy of Sciences Specimen collected during the 1905-06 expedition.

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Geochelone nigra  (Testudinidae)

Remarks: There are 14 described subspecies of the Galápagos tortoise of which 11 still exist, some with only small populations. There are “dome-shelled” and “saddle-backed” tortoises.

Distribution:  Native to seven of the Galápagos Islands. Habitat: On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with saddleback shells and long necks. Habitat: Domed tortoises live at higher altitudes in thick shrubbery which is also their food.

Appearance: They have a large bony shell (carapace) of a dull brown color. The plates of the carapace are fused with the ribs in a rigid protective structure that is integral to the skeleton. Lichens can grow on the shells of the slow-moving animals. Tortoises keep a characteristic scute (shell segment) pattern on their shell throughout life, though the annual growth bands are not useful for determining age, because the outer layers are worn off with time. A tortoise can withdraw its head, neck and forelimbs into its shell for protection. The legs are large, stumpy, with dry scaly skin and hard scales. The front legs are five-clawed, and the back legs are four-clawed.

Diet: The Galápagos tortoise is a generalized herbivore feeding on grasses, vines, cactus fruit, and other vegetation. It eats the fruit of the manzanello tree and fallen fruits and spiny pads of the prickly pear.

Remarks: A slow metabolism and large internal stores of water mean they can survive up to a year without eating or drinking. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago in 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is galápago.

California Academy of Sciences Specimen

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