Giant Galapagos Turtle

giant galapagos turtle

Giant Galapagos Turtle eggs have been found in the nest of one of the corrals of the Galapagos National Park

Hopes are high that, within the next four months, the descendants of the most famous giant tortoise will see the light.


Once again, eggs have been found in nests in the corral of giant tortoise Lonesome George.

Caretakers of the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center "Fausto Llerena" found eggs in the corral Lonesome George has been sharing for decades with two Galapagos turtle females from Isabela Island placing hopes high again to save the virtually extinct species of La Pinta tortoises.

In previous occasions eggs have been found in George's corral, but after a few months of scrutiny, scientist had to announce the eggs to be infertile, when they noticed a systematic decline in weigh.

In the early 70s, a snail expert accidentally discovered what today is considered to be the only surviving individual of the Pinta Island tortoise species.

This giant Galapagos turtle was taken to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz Island, where he still lives today, sharing his corral with two females from Wolf Volcano from Isabela Island, in an attempt to save his genotype.

Since July 2008, this is the third occasion that eggs have been found in his enclosure.

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Giant Galapagos Turtle Habitat

These turtles are very large species which may reach a carapace length of 122 cm (4 feet) and weight of 227 kg (500 lb) on the larger Islands of Galapagos.

Males are much larger than females. The different populations exhibit marked differences in size and shape. The populations may be divided roughly into two groups.

Those from the smaller, drier Islands tend to be smaller (females average 27 kg, males 54 kg) and have saddle-back carapaces and longer, thinner limbs.

Conversely those giant Galapagos turtles from the larger, wetter Islands are larger with dome-shaped shells.

The saddle-back would appear to be a modification allowing the giant turtles to reach up and browse on the taller vegetation.

This is particularly important since on the drier Islands with giant turtle populations the Opuntia cactus (a major source of water) has evolved an arborescent form.

Galapagos turtle mating appears to occur at any time of the year although it does have seasonal peaks. Almost any kind of green vegetation is taken as food, including Hippomane mancinella which is highly poisonous to most creatures.

When possible the Galapagos giant turtle (Geochelone elephantopus) spends long periods of time partially submerged in pools.

This may be both a thermo-regulatory response and a protection from mosquitoes and ticks. At night this species may dig itself into soft ground or vegetation.

Galapagos turtles mature at 20-25 years of age. Compared to most turtles, the birth rate of turtles in Galapagos is extremely low.

Most turtles can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. However, the giant Galapagos turtle only lays between 2 and 16 eggs.

These eggs are laid in a hole dug by the mother. Then they are buried for incubation. The mother leaves, and the eggs hatch 4 to 8 months later.

Lonesome George is by far the most famous giant Galapagos turtle alive today, is of the saddle-back type.

The previously most famous turtle named Harriet (who was at the Australia Zoo until her death in 2006), was a domed turtle.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)
With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading! There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands
Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers. Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World
Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in. Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands
If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier. But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you. Small, well-priced, and reliable!

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire
The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table. This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!

More About Galapagos

Galapagos Marine Life

Galapagos Weather

Galapagos Map

Galapagos Islands Pictures

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