Galapagos tortoises make world headlines after unbelievable discovery
Galapagos tortoises are the largest living species of tortoise in the world. They are also the longest living vertebrate animals on the planet. Some of these ancient beasts would have been alive when Charles Darwin made his famous voyage to the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. They can live up to 200 years and reach a weight of nearly 1,000 pounds. These tortoises are one of the most iconic species, often the first thing to come to mind when we think of the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin observed that the tortoises on each of the seven islands that they inhabit had important differences in the size and shape of their shells. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks. On dryer islands, the tortoises have smaller shells and longer necks. This allows them to reach higher to get the vegetation that makes up their diet, in areas where ground vegetation is less plentiful. This was one of Darwin’s important observations that led to his famous theory of evolution that changed how we view the world, and ourselves.
Galapagos tortoises have been making world headlines recently because they have been discovered again on Fernandina Island. For over 100 years, they had been thought to be extinct. The last sighting of a Fernandina giant tortoise on the island was 1906. They have now discovered a female that is over 100 years old. Experts believe that there is at least one other tortoise on the island which they will try to track. These tortoises will be taken to a breeding center on Santa Cruz Island in an effort to help reestablish the tortoise population on Fernadina. Eggs are hatched and the young are cared for and protected until they are three to four years of age and much less vulnerable to predators. They will then be released with a much higher rate of survival. Conservation efforts such as this one are crucial to the survival of this species.