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The Galapagos tortoise, the iconic giant, the biggest from Pacific Ocean Island

Updated on June 19, 2013

The Galapagos tortoise, the iconic giant from Pacific Ocean

The exotic fauna that are found within the Galapagos Islands renowned because unique characteristics.

What you witness today are the result of never-ending evolutions from their ancestor which originated and separated thousands of kilometer away.

The giant Galapagos tortoise arguably the most popular endemic reptile that ever live over the past centuries.

This tortoise can live up to 100 hundreds of years old, some were also able to reach 150 years or above, quite amazing to think human can only live up to 70 years in average.

They also are the biggest of any tortoise species on earth. This tortoise has evolved in a unique pattern, and historically has been classified to 14 different sub-species, where only 11 of them still existing today.

Each one of this Galapagos island tortoise species has their own adapting style which only compatible to their habitat. The islands of Galapagos are so remote and far away from the South America mainland.

As a result, any big predator would have a hard time to reach these islands and prevail, so automatically the Galapagos islands tortoise, turned into the most dominant herbivore to live there.


Habitat and behavior of galapagos island tortoise

You can find Galapagos island tortoise almost in every islands throughout the Galapagos archipelago.

This Galapagos animal population was greatly decreased in 19th century due to overly hunt that designated for collection and alternative food source.

One mature tortoise Galapagos will reach fascinating shell length of 4 feet, or about 120 centimeter, and they are able to gain weight as heavy as 500 pounds or around 225 kilogram.

Normally the male tortoises are bigger in size than the females.

How in the world that this tortoise Galapagos ancestors survive when traveling through the giant ocean? They are not sea turtle and they never been able to swim in their life!

Study have shown that they may floating themselves on bunches of certain plants disgorged from rivers. Similar species of this giant tortoise is located on the Aldabra Island within the Indian Ocean.

The Galapagos tortoise has never encountered any real enemies or predators, they live relatively a peaceful and happy life. Typically a tortoise would wake up in the morning and enjoy the warm sun heat in open space for about one hour. Most of the day they would spend on feeding in a grass land or meadow.

Their main diets are the grasses, fruits, vines, and other edible plants that are indigenous to the Galapagos Islands.

These tortoises can survive without water for a very long time because they can manage to use most of the moisture from their food, like fruits and grasses. In the late afternoon, Galapagos Islands tortoise would dipping and cool off in mud or resting in shrubs, to keep their body temperature warm.

The galapagos tortoise fascinating breeding routine

The tortoise Galapagos mating season falls between January through August every single year. Usually the male tortoises are territorial and protecting their area from other males invasion.

The actual mating process occurs in January to March, the males will lock the females by ramming their shells, and nipping the legs of the female.

In June to December, the females will walk around for a couple of kilometers searching for a safe nesting environment.

They will dig a chamber around 12 inches inside the ground where they will lay the eggs in. Usually there around a dozen of eggs lied inside the chamber, and covered with leaves, and mud for incubating.

The small tortoise will hatch within 100 to 200 days or 4 to 8 months. They will find their way out by digging through the chamber. The first few years are the critical part of their lives, at this stage their chance to live are small because they are left alone to survive.

The mature Galapagos tortoise is determined when reach the age of 15 years, normally they are ready to reproduce in the age of 20 years, and gain the greatest size at around 40 years old.


The galapagos island tortoise conservation

In the past human have been the real enemies of the Galapagos tortoise. They killed them for collection purpose; they would even hunt them for their edible meat.

For some people eating tortoise’s meat believe to create some sort of magical power, also enhance their vitality, even some people believe that eating the meat would make them live longer.

Fortunately, in 1970 Ecuador imposed new regulation that the Galapagos are a National part, so, hunting, and capturing the indigenous creatures of these islands are extremely prohibited.

More importantly these giant tortoises are heavily protected and there are some breeding programs which have been carried on to raise the size of population and save them from extinction.

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      giggles great video jv, your skills are fatnastic. nat geo should hire you. I'll try to find some way to save the video to show the babies in the hinderlands. ta! db[]

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hi Tara! We must be neighbors bsaeuce I am in Pflugerville and we go to Marble Falls often! Haven't been to SweetBerry Farm yet, but would love to go. We are actually heading to WildSeed Farms in Fredericksburg tomorrow to buy pumpkins. What a small world.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      AMAZING PFAFFMAN! AMAZING! I wanta get in the shell,how heavy was it; your BRUT STRANTH in lifting the old house was also AMAZING! VERY HOT you would deftinaly have scored a BABE. Really sad you couldn't SWIM Must ready myself to greet my WORLD O FLORA AND FAUNA! Love Ya

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      John Sarkis, animal from the Galapagos Island truly one of its kind, result from hundred years of evolution because these islands are far away from the mainland. Thank you for the comment and your vote...

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi greeneryday, and what a wonderful hub this is.

      I'm fascinated by any animal from the Galapagos Island, and this large tortoise is no exception. I didn't know they grew so big---I was aware of them living a long life!

      Great hub - voted up and away


    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      Lastheart thank you for stopping by and leave a comment... appreciate

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      6 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Ok now I know where your comment came from to "Preparing A Turtle Environment".

      This one is really informative and well done. Voted up and more.

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      Hi Rice Girl 2011, glad that you are here, and yes really sad about Lonesome George we all really miss him. I never heard about scientists who are about to bring back wooly mammoth? It will be really interesting if it become a reality. Thank you sharing with us :)

    • Rice Girl 2011 profile image

      Rice Girl 2011 

      6 years ago from Southeastern United States

      Awesome blog. I was very sad to hear that the world had lost Lonesome George the other day. However, on the same day, NPR interviewed several scientists who believe that it is possible to bring back the wooly mammoth!!!! It would be great to be able to turn back the clock on at least one extinct animal. Definitely voted up, useful, beautiful, awesome and interesting.

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      Good day whonunuwho, thanks for visiting and reading this hub, it means a lot to me that more people are more concern about this situation...

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      A wonderful hub and a timely one, as many of our ocean's giants are fast on the road to extinction, as well as our giant mammals. Thanks and keep writing.


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