The Largest Land Turtles

The Largest Land Turtles

Elephant tortoise or galapagos tortoise

The elephant tortoise living in the Galapagos Islands (by the way, it is not found anywhere else in the world) is considered the largest land tortoise in the world. It is the largest living land tortoise and the 10th largest among all living reptiles, reaching a weight of more than 400 kg and a length of more than 1.8 meters. Surprisingly, newly born turtles weigh no more than 70–80 g. With a life span of more than 100 years in the wild, Galapagos turtles are one of the longest-lived vertebrates. In captivity, the caught individuals lived for at least 170 years. Lichens can grow on the shell of elephant turtles. Male elephant turtles can make sounds similar to the roar of an elephant. The turtle’s body is covered with a large bone shell (carapace) of light brown color. The shell plates connected to the ribs represent a rigid protective structure, which is an integral part of the skeleton. Lichens can grow on the shells of these slow animals. The turtles retain a characteristic pattern of plates (shell segments) throughout their lives, despite this, the annual growth rings are useless for determining age, because the outer layers wear out with time. The tortoise can drag its head, neck and forelimbs into its carapace for protection. Paws are large and squat with dry skin and hard scales. There are five claws on the front legs, and four on the hind legs.

The Largest Land Turtles

A total of 11 subspecies have been described, some of which, obviously, have already been completely exterminated. 6 subspecies are found on the island of Albermale, another 6. on each of the following islands: James, Independentable, Duncan, Hood, Chuffman, Ebingdon. Elephant turtles inhabit tropical deciduous forests, shrubbery plains and savannahs. All subspecies of the elephant turtle are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List.
The situation is most favorable with the population on the island of Santa Cruz, where about a thousand heads of Geochelone elephatopus nigrita are still preserved, as well as on the island of Isabela, where the subspecies Geochelone elephatopus elephantopus lives.

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The Largest Land Turtles

Males are usually larger than females. The head of the Galapagos tortoise is relatively small, and the neck. long. The absence of predators that are dangerous for elephant turtles led to the fact that they have a carapace wide open in front. But thanks to this shell, reptiles got a great opportunity to reach very distant branches that have not yet been gnawed by other animals, which, with the large number of elephant turtles, became very relevant. Probably another explanation for the unusual structure of the shell: "openness" allows animals living in hot conditions to better control their body temperature

The Largest Land Turtles

Galapagos turtles have a daily life and feed on plants, including poisonous to other animals. Turtles do not refuse and fell. Tortoises spend time not eating food in liquid mud, escaping heat and blood-sucking insects. At night, turtles dig out shallow holes in which they hide the back of their bodies.

The Largest Land Turtles

This species of turtles is known for internal fertilization. In the period from January to August, males begin to sniff air in search of a female smell. Finding a female, the male catches up with her and intimidates her into mating. He rams it with the front of the shell and bites her legs until she pulls the bottom into the shell. in this way he immobilizes the female, and then mates. The female lays eggs in the period from June to December, she finds a dry sunny spot in the lowland and lays 10 eggs in the pit, which she then buries with her hind legs. This place for her becomes unchanged for life. Incubation lasts from 3 to 8 months, depending on temperature (at high temperature, eggs mature faster). Most young turtles die in the first decade of life.

In different elephant turtle populations, there are significant differences in the size and shape of the shell. On this basis, they can be divided into two main groups:
– On small arid islands, turtles are small, with a saddle-like shell. Their legs are longer and thinner. The weight of females is up to 27 kg, males up to 54 kg.
– There are more turtles on large moist islands, their shells are high and domed. The difference in size between males and females is not so pronounced.

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The Largest Land Turtles

An elephant turtle can live from 12 to 14 months without food and water and not lose weight.
Galapagos tortoises adhere to certain habits with regard to sleep, nutrition and in choosing a place for the nest. In the zoo, each of their turtles invariably sleeps in their place. After a 16-hour nap, they leave their bed.

Ever since the Europeans discovered the amazing islands of Oceania, elephant turtles have been mercilessly destroyed. Since elephant turtles can live without food and water for a long time, the sailors took them with them on long trips as “canned food”.

The Largest Land Turtles

Seychelles giant tortoise

Seychelles turtle (Aldabrachelys gigantea) is recognized as one of the largest land tortoises in the world. The length of her carapace reaches 106 cm, and the maximum weight. up to 120 kg. In captivity, this turtle is kept relatively recently. Endemic to Seychelles

The Largest Land Turtles

Unlike the elephant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus). see the photo above, which Seychelles turtle looks like, for the Seychelles typical presence of the occipital shield. Males in Seychelles turtles are larger than females, and have thicker and longer tails.

The Largest Land Turtles

Nowadays, the natural range of the giant tortoise is limited to the small island of Aldabra in the group of Seychelles. There are several introduced colonies on other islands: Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius, Nosy Be Island near Madagascar and others. The number of turtles on the island of Aldabra is estimated at about 150,000 individuals.

They live in open areas with grass, shrubbery and individual trees, in mangrove swamps. The main food in nature is dwarf island vegetation.

The Largest Land Turtles

Today on the Seychelles Bird Island (Bird Island) lives the oldest giant tortoise in the world – Esmeralda, who received this title after the death of Harriet, the Galapagos giant tortoise, who died at the age of 176. The age of the giant tortoise Esmeralda from Bird Island exceeded 170 years, and according to some bold versions, it is approaching 200 years.

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The Largest Land Turtles

Aldabra turtles live both singly and in herd communities, which gather mainly in open spaces. Morning is the period of maximum activity of turtles when they spend time in search of food. Serious competitors of Seychelles turtles in search and consumption of plant foods are wild goats once brought to the islands. In order to protect giant turtles, the state spent a long time regularly shooting goats.
The Aldabra giants also dig underground burrows for laying eggs or rest in swamps and small ponds to avoid overheating during high daytime temperatures. Seychelles turtles are excellent swimmers, but they prefer to use this skill only in extreme cases. The ability to swim well once allowed them to spread across the islands of the Indian Ocean.

The Largest Land Turtles

Mating is extended from February to May, and nesting is from June to September. The manifestation of popular regulatory mechanisms in this species is noted. With a high population density, females lay only 4–5 eggs and one in several years. At low density, 14 eggs are usually laid several times a year. The female goes in search of a suitable place for the nest and digs a hole about 50 cm deep. Small turtles are born only about 6-8 cm long. Giant turtles become sexually mature 20 years after birth.

Giant turtles are most of the time slow and cautious, but at any moment they can develop a fairly high speed, especially in anticipation of delicious food. Also known are the attempts at risky acrobatic stunts when the turtle stands on its hind legs to reach the low-growing tree branches. In this case, there is a serious risk for them that can lead to death: if they are carelessly moved, they may fall on their backs and will no longer be able to roll over and stand on their feet.

The Largest Land Turtles

Instead of a conclusion

There is still a lot of material about various turtles, if it’s interesting, I’ll write more, I’m waiting for comments.

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