Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tortoise and Tortels

Galápagos Islands in the South Atlantic
Habitat: Upland areas
Size: Shell length from 29 in. (74 cm) to more than 4 ft. (1.2 m); weighs 500 lb. (227 kg)
Coloration: Dull brown; males often have a yellow area on the lower jaw and throat
Diet: Wide range of vegetation— even cactus shoots
Breeding: Females lay 2–10 eggs that hatch after 3–4. largest tortoises in the world live on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. These reptiles probably drifted across the ocean from Central America, perhaps on floating tree trunks. The first giant tortoises washed up on the beaches of the island of Española. Later, more giant tortoises landed on the islands of southern Isabela, Volcan Darwin, and Volcan Alcedo. A third batch of tortoises landed on other islands in the group. It may seem unlikely that tortoises could just drift across the ocean for hundreds of miles and end up on some remote islands. Yet tortoises are often carried far from land during floods and they can survive very well at sea. They stay afloat with little effort, bobbing along on the ocean waves.One female is all that is needed to start a new population of tortoises if she already carries a male’s sperm inside her body. Female tortoises can lay eggs for up to four years without a male being present.

These tortoises live on dry islands where they need to stretch up to feed on taller plants. The smaller plants on these islands die back during dry periods. Saddlebacks have long legs and long necks, so they can stretch as high as possible.
The males often make a roaring sound when they mate with the females. The females lay between two and ten hard, spherical eggs from July to December.

Saving the Tortoises!!
Many conservation programs have been set up to help the Galápagos giant tortoises. The introduction of foreign species is being controlled to prevent competition for food or danger to the eggs and young tortoises. These tortoises are also being bred in captivity. Over the last forty years, the Darwin Foundation on the Galápagos Islands have hatched more than 2,500 young tortoises, adding to a total population of about 10,000 individuals.

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