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Tortoises: Testudinidae

GalÁpagos Tortoise (geochelone Nigra): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: This large, bulky tortoise usually has a tall and rounded, dark-colored upper shell that may be black, gray, or brown. Sometimes the upper shell, or carapace, is saddle-shaped. The carapace can measure up to 51 inches (130 centimeters) in length.

Geographic range: They only live on the Galápagos Islands.

Habitat: This species lives on the volcanic Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador in South America. They make their homes anywhere from rather dry to moist areas.

The Galápagos tortoise has become a prized tourist attraction on the Galápagos Islands. (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: The Galápagos tortoise eats almost nothing but plants, including grasses, cacti, fruits, and leaves.

Behavior and reproduction: Active during the day, they spend their nights sleeping among plants or rocks. Males of this species, like the males of some other species, fight one another by ramming their shells together. Males do the same thing to females during mating season, which runs from December to August. During mating, he will make roaring noises. The female lays up to four sets, or clutches, of eggs from late June to December. She digs a hole, drops in two to nineteen eggs, and then buries them. She provides no other care for the eggs or young. The round eggs measure 2.2 to 2.6 inches (56 to 65 millimeters) in diameter. The eggs hatch eighty-five to two hundred days later.

Galápagos tortoises and people: Rarely collected for its food, this tortoise has become a prized tourist attraction on the Galápagos Islands.

Conservation status: According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Galápagos tortoise is Vulnerable, which means it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. Certain populations of this tortoise have disappeared completely. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the tortoise as Endangered, or in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Many of them die from attacks by cats, rats, dogs, and pigs. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesTortoises: Testudinidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Tortoises And People, Conservation Status, GalÁpagos Tortoise (geochelone Nigra): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET