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Galapagos tortoise (elephant)

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Elephant tortoise or galapagos tortoise - one of the largest modern land turtles. At one time they played the role of "canned food", allowing mariners to eat fresh meat for a long time during their travels. This was one of the reasons for the sharp decline in the number of turtles.

Elephant turtles live on the islands of the Galapagos archipelago. 12 subspecies are known, both small enough, living on islands small in size, and giant animals inhabiting large islands. Males are usually larger than females. The head of the Galapagos turtles is relatively small, and the necks are long. The mass of turtles that live on large islands can reach 200 kilograms, and the length of the shell is 1.2 meters. Smaller subspecies reach a mass of 27 kilograms (females) and 50 kilograms (males) and have a specific saddle-shaped carapace. 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. There is probably another explanation for the unusual structure of the carapace: its "openness" allows animals living in hot conditions to better control their body temperature. Interestingly, seafarers collected mainly smaller and, accordingly, more transportable females, and animal catchers made every effort to deliver the largest specimens to zoos. As a result, there were almost no females in the collections.

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 breeding season lasts almost all year round, during this period, females lay up to 22 eggs (this is a lot for land turtles, the fecundity of most of them is less than a dozen eggs, often one or two). Under favorable conditions, the female can lay down two masonry. The pits in which the turtles lay their eggs have a depth and diameter of about 30 centimeters. Females for laying eggs have long been visiting the same convenient places, as a result, the soil here is mixed with the remains of the shell. During the breeding season, animals behave extremely aggressively, and males can engage in fights even with females: turtles hit each other with shells, bite. The pose of duelists is characteristic: each turtle tries to stretch its neck as much as possible to bite the enemy at the back of the head. The defeated individual retreats from the place of battle at the maximum speed available to the turtle. Scientists have developed methods for restoring the number of elephant turtles, up to the artificial insemination of females. Galapagos tortoises are more common in zoos. Due to their size (carapax length up to 122 centimeters), they are hardly suitable for private collections.

"Land turtles." A.N. Gurzhiy
No part of the article may be reproduced without the written permission of the author and the Delta M publishing house

Habitat

The birthplace of the Galapagos turtles is naturally the Galapagos Islands, which are washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, their name translates as “Turtle Island”. Galapagos can also be found in the Indian Ocean - on the island of Aldabra, but there these animals do not reach large sizes.

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Galapagos tortoises survive in very difficult conditions - because of the hot climate on the islands there is very little vegetation. For their residence, they choose lowlands and spaces overgrown with shrubs, like to hide in thickets under trees. Giants prefer mud baths to water procedures; for this, these cute creatures look for holes with a liquid swamp and bury themselves there with their entire lower body.

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Features and lifestyle

All daylight reptiles hide in thickets and practically do not leave their shelters. Only at nightfall they go out for a walk. In the dark, turtles are almost helpless, as their hearing and vision are completely reduced.

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In the rainy season or drought, Galapagos tortoises can migrate from one locality to another. At this time, often independent individuals gather in groups of 20-30 individuals, but in the collective they have little contact with each other and live apart. Brothers are interested in them only during the rutting season.

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Mating time falls in the spring months, egg laying - in the summer. By the way, the second name for these relic animals appeared due to the fact that during the search for the second half, males make specific uterine sounds, similar to an elephant roar. To get his chosen one, the male rams her with all his strength with his carapace, and if such a move has no effect, then he also bites her by the lower legs until the lady of the heart lies down and draws in her limbs, thus opening up access to to your body.

Lying eggs Elephant turtles in specially dug holes, in one laying there can be up to 20 eggs the size of a tennis ball. Under favorable conditions, turtles can reproduce twice a year. After 100-120 days, the first cubs begin to get out of the eggs, after birth, their weight does not exceed 80 grams. Young growth reaches puberty at the age of 20-25 years, but such a long development is not a problem, since life expectancy of giants - 100-122 years.

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The food of the Elephant turtles is exclusively of plant origin, they eat any plants that they can reach. Poisonous and prickly greens are also eaten. A special preference in food is given to mancinella and cactus prickly pear, since in addition to nutrients, reptiles also get moisture from them. Galapagos has no teeth; they bite off shoots and leaves with the help of pointed, jaw-like knives.

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Adequate drinking regimen for these giants is vital. They can spend up to 45 minutes daily restoring water balance in the body.

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The order of turtles is already more than 220 million years. All its representatives can be divided into 2 groups: sea and land turtles. The first we meet in the seas and oceans, and the second, respectively, live on land.

The variety of land turtles is quite large. Among them there are dwarfs, for example, the Madagascar spider tortoise, and giants - the most famous of which is the Galapagos tortoise, whose weight can reach 300 kilograms. That's about it and we will talk today.

These turtles live only on the Galapagos Islands. Nowhere else in the world, in their natural habitat can you meet them. By the way, the islands got their name in honor of these turtles.

The fact is that when in 1535 the Spanish mariners reached these islands, they simply abounded with huge turtles. At that time, seafarers, pirates, and other sea people had a special interest in live turtles - they were excellent “live” canned food for them, which could live in ship holds for up to six months and do without food. “Galapagos” is translated from Spanish as “turtle,” and the Galapagos Islands literally mean “turtle islands.”

Many animals living here have one feature - they are not afraid of humans. People began to populate these small pieces of land only in 1832, when the islands were captured by Ecuador. Charles Darwin visited here in 1835. He was able to bring out one Galapagos tortoise, which he then handed over for maintenance to an English zoo. She was called Henrietta. Then her home was the Steve Irwin Zoo in Australia. In 2005, her 175th birthday was celebrated, and in November 2006, she died of old age.

In principle, longevity in elephant turtles is quite common. They can easily live up to 170-180 years. But there are, more precisely, there were 2 turtles whose age crossed the 300-year mark. According to RIA Novosti, citing local media in 2006, the oldest animal in the world, the Galapagos tortoise named Samira, died at the Cairo closed zoo in 2006. Her age was estimated at 315 years. Prior to this, in 1992, her "husband" died there, who did not reach 400 years. Well, now back to the turtles themselves.

Galapagos turtles are famous for their impressive size. The length of their shell can reach 120-125 centimeters, and weight - 300 kilograms. But not every animal can boast of such parameters. For example, on large wet islands, turtles grow to similar sizes, but on neighboring small and arid islands they are smaller. There, the weight of the males rarely exceeds 54 kilograms, and the legs are thinner and longer compared to the "large" brothers.

The main diet of these turtles mainly consists of plant foods - grass and shrubs. But they still managed to stand out among the rest of the Galapagos animal world. These turtles can eat poisonous plants without harm to their health, which other inhabitants do not even touch. In rare cases, they can taste meat, for example, some rodent.

Elephant turtles are considered one of the most prolific among turtles. The female lays about 20 eggs once a year, with a diameter of 6-7 centimeters. If you count, then on average for 150 years it brings about 3,000 eggs. At first glance - a lot. But only a couple of dozens, or even less, survive to “come of age”.

These giants often suffer from bloodsucking ticks, but they cannot get rid of them on their own. In this case, small birds come to their aid - Darwin or Galapagos finches. Having flown up to the turtle, the bird begins to gallop in front of its very face. Then the turtle slowly begins to retract its neck and raises its head. The bird flies up onto this peculiar “perch” and begins to examine the skin of the reptile, pecking ticks from it.

Since the discovery of these islands, a serious threat of extinction has hung over the turtles. Over 2.5 centuries, several hundred thousand turtles were destroyed on the islands. The reasons for this “nightmare” were the export of turtles as “live canned food” and the settlement of these islands by people who brought with them alien representatives of the flora and fauna.

Until the 30s of the 20th century, no measures were taken to preserve and restore the population of these animals. And only in 1936 the Galapagos Islands were declared a national park, which occupies almost 97.5% of the total area of ​​the entire territory. In 1978, the islands were declared a UNESCO heritage, and in 1985 - the heritage of the world biosphere.

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