Galapagos Islands Tortoises

Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos tortoise as portrayed on a 1935 stamp.

In his tales of The Enchanted Isles Herman Melville mentions seafarers stopping on the islands to hunt the abundant tortoises. The tortoises, which grow up to two metres long and weigh up to 230 kilograms were a source of meat for pirates and whalers.

Tortoise's in ship's hold
A mock-up of tortoise's in a ship's hold in the interpretation centre at Puerto
Baquerizo Moreno, the administrative centre for the Galapagos Islands.

Two types of land tortoises are found in the archipelago. Tortoises with rounded shells have evolved to survive in low vegetation where they can move around without getting caught in the underbrush. The saddleback tortoise has a shell that curves upward in the front allowing it to lift its head to reach food. The females lay their eggs between June and December.

Tortoises at the Darwin Centre
Both round-shelled and saddlebacked shelled tortoises
can be seen at the Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz.

Four of the world's eight known species of sea turtles are found in the Galapagos Islands. The black turtle is unique to the islands; it lives near the shore feeding on seaweed and mangrove roots.

Feeding Sea Tortoise
Sea turtle feeding on seaweed.


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© Grose Educational Media, 2007