Galapagos tortoise (Geochelone nigra)
All in the Far-Flung Family
Galapagos giant tortoises are native only to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador in South America. Their only tortoise relatives live in Madagascar and the Seychelles.
The giant tortoise is the world's longest-living vertebrate, often surviving 150 years or more.
All the Weigh
Male giant tortoises can weigh more than 600 pounds.
No Need to Chase Food
These reptiles are herbivores, consuming a diet of cactus, grasses, leaves, lichen, and berries.
What's In Store?
Giant tortoises store food and water very efficiently and can survive without either for up to a year.
What's In a Name?
The tortoise got its name from 16th-century Spanish explorers, who thought its shell resembled the shape of a saddle called a 'galápago'.
Giant Tortoises Float!
Unlike marine turtles, giant tortoises are poor swimmers, though they are buoyant.
Early Ocean Explorers
Scientists believe all present species of Galapagos giant tortoise evolved from a common ancestor that arrived from the mainland, floating on the ocean currents.
Heroes in a Half-Shell
The tortoise shell is actually part of its skeleton, fused with ribs into a single protective structure.
Four in the Front, Five in the Back
Giant tortoises have five claws on their front legs, but only four claws on their hind legs.
Yep, tortoises are s-l-o-w: their average walking speed is just 0.2 miles per hour, and they nap for about 16 hours a day!
Which Came First?
Giant tortoises lay from 2 to 16 hard-shelled eggs that look like round, white tennis balls. Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: Lower temperature nests produce more males and higher temperature nests produce more females.
Fame Won't Buy You Love
Lonesome George was the last known individual of the Pinta Island tortoise, one of eleven subspecies of Galápagos tortoise. Unable to mate successfully, he was labeled the rarest creature in the world, and remains a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally.
World Wildlife Fund in Action
The Giant Tortoise is the symbolic face of the Galapagos, filled with unique species found nowhere else on earth. For more than 45 years WWF has played an integral role in protecting the Galapagos, collaborating to maintain an environment that supports diverse and abundant native species, along with the people who depend upon it for their livelihoods. One of WWF’s most important achievements was helping to establish Galapagos National Park, providing the framework for the long-term conservation of the islands.