Giant turtles - living fossils

Giant turtles established the Galapagos Islands hundreds of years ago, and were able to survive there due to the lack of predators. From the Spanish "Galapagos Islands" are translated as "turtle islands". In appearance, these huge turtles resemble prehistoric animals.

Description of giant turtles

Elephant and Seychelles turtles are the largest in the world, their body length reaches 125 centimeters, and the mass can reach 400 kilograms.

Bone shields are tightly bonded to each other, so giant turtles are reliably protected from predators. Although the carapace is very durable, it cannot protect from all dangers these clumsy and heavy reptiles.

Giant tortoise (Megalochelys gigantea).

Paws are covered with rigid plates in the form of scales. The fingers of these land turtles, unlike sea turtles, do not have membranes.

In the Galapagos Islands, several subspecies of giant turtles live, which differ in the shape of the shell. The saddle-shaped carapace in the neck region has a curved shape, so turtles can raise their heads high to tear leaves from branches.

Giant Tortoise Habitats

A huge number of land turtles live in the world. But giant turtles are found on separate islands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean - in the Galapagos archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. Previously, these giants lived in other Seychelles.

During danger, the tortoise draws in under the carapace and the head and limbs.

Giant turtles include the Seychelles tortoise living in the Seychelles and the elephant tortoise living in the Galapagos Islands for hundreds of years.

Several subspecies of the elephant turtle live in this archipelago, which quite often stand out as separate species.

Earlier, elephant turtles were found in these places in huge numbers, they kept in herds of 2-3 thousand individuals.

Giant Tortoise Lifestyle

These turtles live in small groups, gathering together during feeding and watering.

Giant turtles feed on grass, leaves, ferns, cacti, and also eat carrion. That is, they are omnivorous animals, but they still give preference to plant foods. In the rainy season, giant turtles have enough food, so during this period they are more picky, eating only young grass and leaves of small bushes.

Giant turtles are terrestrial.

Seychelles turtles from the islands of Aldabra sometimes go into shallow water, lower their necks into the water and look for algae. On the Galapagos Islands there is little grass, so in the dry season elephant turtles are forced to eat cacti, while they spit out thorns. In addition, they eat the acidic leaves of guava and fern. If the drought lasts too long, then wilted grass, dry shrubs and the remains of dead crabs are used. Elephant turtles love to drink water, they consume it in large quantities. With great pleasure they bathe in the mud. Part of the water is retained in the bladder, so turtles can do without watering for some time.

Giant turtles are real long-livers of the animal world: at least they live 100 years, and a maximum of 300 years.

Breeding giant turtles

Puberty in giant turtles occurs no earlier than 20 years. The mating season falls on March-April. One female lays from 2 to 12 spherical eggs, which develop over 2 months.

Without food, these huge turtles can live about 18 months.

Males attract females with the help of peculiar songs, making throat sounds, while they perform a nodding head. If the female does not dislike the male, then mating occurs. Soon, eggs are laid in the ground warmed by the sun.

The eggs are enclosed in hard shells. After 2 months, 6 cm long turtles emerge from the eggs. On the Aldabra Islands, a huge number of turtles die due to frigates and palm lizards. And in the Galapagos, the main source of danger for babies is dogs, cats, and rats. Up to 18 months the size of small turtles is about a fist. Puberty occurs in 20-25 years.

On the island of Aldabra, individuals from various populations differ in the size and shape of the shell.

Related species

The giant Seychelles tortoise and the elephant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands are relatives of small African and American turtles. Giant turtles look like revitalized fossils, but they have common roots with cute little turtles.

Interesting about giant turtles

• The life span of land turtles is incredibly long. In 1776, an adult was brought to Mauritius from Seychelles, which after moving another 142 years lived;
• To date, giant turtles have survived only on the 7 Galapagos Islands, but in the XVI-XVII centuries, they lived in large numbers in Madagascar, the islands of St. Mauritius, the island of Reunion and the like;
• Due to the fact that the body of the turtle is covered with a shell, it is not able to breathe, expanding the chest, so it has special muscles that constrict and enlarge the lungs.

With a high population density, the female lays only 4-5 eggs every few years.

Giant Tortoise Protection

Giant turtles managed to survive on isolated small islands on which habitat conditions did not change for centuries. But today, the environment on the islands under the influence of human activity is changing very quickly.

Giant turtles living on the islands of Aldabra have good prospects for the future, as they are not prevented from breeding, but elephant turtles are at risk of extinction.

Watch the video: 10 Living Fossils (February 2020).

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