Galápagos Giant Tortoise

The Galapagos Giant Turtle is a reptile of the largest endemic species on Earth. There are approximately 10 different species of giant turtles in the Galapagos Islands. They are often differentiated by size, shell and geographical distribution. Due to the differences in height of the vegetation with which they feed as grass, flowers, or cactus fruits, for that reason they are herbivorous.

History of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise

In the 17th century, buccaneers used the islands of Galapagos as a base for repair and water supply. From then on, they began hunting turtles to keep them alive on their ships. So, get fresh meat and even water from your vessels. Exploitation of these species increased in the 19th century when whalers and seal hunters hunted giant turtles. For the nourishment and benefits of your oil.

The first inhabitants of the islands hunted them also, to clear areas of their habitat, since they were dedicated to agriculture. The colonizers introduced domestic animals, which eventually became wild animals, so they were the predator of the turtles.

Galápagos Giant Tortoise characteristics:

The number of giant tortoises on the Galapagos has steadily decreased. They were discovered with an estimate of 250,000 in their population in the year 1600, however, until 1970 they fell to approximately 3000. They have so far been preserved and saved from extinction by captive breeding programmes. Like the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, located at the Charles Darwin Scientific Station, in the Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora.

Their predators are introduced animals such as: pigs, dogs, red ants, or rats; the reason for this is that their eggs and offspring are prey to these predators.

Conservation status: Endangered.

How long does a Galapagos tortoise live?

It is estimated that giant tortoises live approximately 100 years in freedom and the turtles that remain in captivity live up to 170 years.

Galapagos tortoise: Size

The weight of the tortoises can exceed 300 kg, due to being in the wild, and their shells can reach up to 1.50 meters in length.

What adaptations does the giant tortoise have?

The climate in Galapagos is based on a seasonal pattern. The warm season occurs from January to May, and the dry season from June to December. These climatic changes influence the migrations of giant turtles. During the dry season, the vegetation changes. So, it forces the turtles to move approximately 10 km towards the highlands, for their new adaptation and feeding. Giant turtles of considerable size, manage to migrate towards their target. However, smaller ones must wait for growth in lowlands to ascend. As the rain starts on the islands, the Galapagos turtles migrate again towards the growing vegetation of food, to lowlands.

Description of the Galapagos giant tortoise


The giant tortoise has a slow metabolism like any other reptile, taking 1 to 3 weeks to digest its food. They have a great capacity to store water and do not ingest liquids for long periods of time. Thanks to their ability to transform their accumulated fat into water.

They usually move during the day in search of food. At night they rest among vegetation or mud in order to conserve their heat. According to their habitat, they are usually differentiated by the shape of their shells.

Dome shape

This shape is found in turtles that live on islands with high humidity. And abundant vegetation. Saddle shape

Consists of a frontal elevation to facilitate neck extension. It is characteristic of tortoises that live in arid areas with less vegetation, such as cacti. Intermediate form

Tortoises with this type of vegetation are found on Santa Fe Island.

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