Fun Galápagos Tortoise Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 12, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Galápagos Tortoise facts talk about their food habits.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.2 Min

If you want to read about one of the most unique animals on planet Earth, you should definitely read about the Galápagos Tortoises.

Coming from the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador, these tortoises have been at the very forefront of discussion in the world of science owing to their special genetic behavior, food behavior, size, and appearance.

It is said that when Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835, these tortoises, along with the other animals on the islands, helped him formulate his pioneering theory of evolution.

However, these tortoises were greatly hunted as a food source and are now classified as an Endangered species.

Though efforts have been made, some species have gone extinct, like the tortoises from the Pinta Islands. Initially thought to be around 15 species, there are now around 12 species left.

So, read on for more knowledge on these amazing turtles. For more information on animals, take a look at Indian star tortoise and Olive Ridley sea turtle facts.

Galápagos Tortoise Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Galápagos Tortoise?

Galápagos Tortoises are giant tortoises that are only found in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. They are not really one species of giant tortoises but a group of different giant tortoises that are found within the same island or sometimes on different islands altogether.

What class of animal does a Galápagos Tortoise belong to?

The Galapagos Tortoise is a species of reptile and hence belongs to the class of Reptilia.

How many Galápagos Tortoises are there in the world?

Historically, data suggests that there were around 200,000 Galápagos Tortoises in the Galápagos Islands Archipelago, with each of the different islands having a turtle sub-species that had adapted specifically to its wildlife conditions. However, the population now is almost one-tenth of that historical figure.

Where does a Galápagos Tortoise live?

The Galápagos Tortoises are only found in the different smaller and larger Islands of the tropical Galápagos Islands, which are located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador.

What is a Galápagos Tortoise's habitat?

The Galápagos Tortoises' habitat is closely related to the habitat of the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are situated roughly around 500 mi or 900 km off the coast of Ecuador.

The hot and humid islands of this territory are volcanic in nature with a low amount of vegetation.

Due to the islands' natural climate and vegetation, the Galapagos Tortoises are known to spend most of their time taking a rest in the waterholes and mud wallows or sunbathing with their big shells.

Yet, for the Galapagos Tortoises, respite comes in the state of the El Nino weather, which brings them so much needed rain in the hot conditions.

Who do Galápagos Tortoise live with?

It has been noted and observed that on the more dry islands of the Galapagos, tortoises with saddleback shells are known to lead a more solitary life. However, on the islands that have more lush vegetation, the Galápagos Tortoises with domes are usually seen leading a life where they gather together in groups on occasions.

How long does a Galápagos Tortoise live?

A Giant Tortoise from the Galápagos Islands is considered to be one of the longest-living animals in the world. The Giant Tortoise species have an average lifespan of more than a hundred years.

The oldest recorded Galapagos Tortoise lifespan was a female named Harriet who, if records are to be believed, lived until the age of 175 years before dying in captivity in a zoo in Australia.

How do they reproduce?

For a Giant Galapagos Tortoise, there is no fixed time for mating and breeding as it occurs all through the year. However, the breeding season reaches a peak between the months of February and June.

However, to establish breeding dominance, the males of these species go through a unique ritual. The males fight it out amongst themselves by seeing who can stretch their necks the most.

The shorter Galapagos Tortoise backs off, and the other male has the mating right now.

This behavior of exerting dominance can be observed better in Galapagos Tortoises with saddleback shells rather than the ones with domed shells.

Once they assert the right to breed, males mate with the females, and then the females use the time, usually between July and November, to reach the dry, sandy coastal land of the islands to make nests and give birth to the tortoise eggs.

The female Galapagos Tortoise uses its hind legs to blindly dig a nesting hole and then gives birth to up to 16 tortoise eggs at a time. The female Galapagos Giant Tortoise makes a muddy nest hole plug by mixing urine and soil while sealing down the eggs of the young tortoises by pressing them hard onto the soil.

The spherical eggs are then left to be incubated in the sun and give birth to young tortoises.

An average clutch of eggs in dome-shaped Galápagos Tortoises (around nine) is twice that of the Galápagos Tortoises with saddleback shells (around four). Young tortoises hatch and come out of the nest after four to eight months in the incubation chamber.

What is their conservation status?

Most of the Galápagos Tortoises fall under the category of Endangered as listed by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The Floreana Island Giant Tortoise and the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise are extinct.

The James Island Giant Tortoise, Eastern and Western Santa Cruz Island Giant Tortoises, the Sierra Negra Giant Tortoise, Hood Island Giant Tortoise, and the Fernandina Island Giant Galapagos Tortoise are listed as Critically Endangered. The Iguana Cove Tortoise, Volcán Darwin Tortoise, and the Chatham Island Tortoise are listed as Endangered animals.

Three species belonging to these islands are listed as Vulnerable animals, namely the Volcán Wolf Tortoise, the Duncan Island Tortoise, and the Volcán Alcedo Tortoise, which has the largest population in the Galapagos wildlife.

Galápagos Tortoise Fun Facts

What do Galápagos Tortoise look like?

A Galapagos Tortoise can be best described by its brown or gray bony shell. These shells can be either dome-shaped, saddleback-shaped, or a tabletop mixture of both.

What is also unique is that a Galapagos Tortoise shell is attached to the ribs to form a protective structure. Like all tortoises, the Galapagos Tortoise can easily withdraw its limbs, heads, and neck into the bony, hard shell for protection.

The forelegs of these Galapagos Tortoises have five claws, while the hind legs have four claws. The legs of the tortoises are covered in scales and are stumpy and large in appearance.

Galapagos Giant Tortoises are known to live for a long time.

How cute are they?

Tortoises from the Galapagos Islands may not be cute conventionally, but due to their mythical story, size and lifespan, they give off a very wise vibe. This may lead many people to find these tortoises cute.

How do they communicate?

A Galapagos Tortoise is not known for its vocalization skills. Males are the only ones who make any kind of sound, with a groaning sound emanating from them during mating. Females have no vocalizations at all. Most of the Galapagos Tortoise behavior is through a show of dominance and through defending themselves.

How big is a Galápagos Tortoise?

The tortoises from the Galapagos Islands are known as Giant Tortoises for a reason. These tortoises are about 4-5 ft in length, with some growing even longer! In terms of height, the size of the Galapagos Tortoise is between 27-36 in. Galápagos Tortoises, in comparison, are almost five times larger than the average Radiated Tortoises.

How fast can a Galápagos Tortoise move?

Due to its large shell size and overall size, the Galapagos Tortoise is considered one of the slowest animals on Earth. These tortoises walk or travel at a really slow pace of 0.2 mph.

How much does a Galápagos Tortoise weigh?

Again, in the department of weight, these tortoises justify the Giant Tortoise tag given to them. These tortoises weigh around 300-700 lb, with average males weighing (around or more than 600 lb) more than females (less than 400 lb).

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male and female Galápagos Tortoises have no distinct names to them.

What would you call a baby Galápagos Tortoise?

A baby Galapagos Tortoise, like its parents, is also not known by any special name.

What do they eat?

The herbivorous tortoises are known to eat cacti, lichens, leaves, berries, oranges, melons, grasses, milkweed, and some native fruits like guava and the poison apple. This consists of their primary food diet.

They are known to lick morning dew from rocks and boulders. Interestingly, due to their slow metabolism and ability to store water inside their bladders and pericardium, the tortoises can go one year without food or water.

Are they poisonous?

No, these herbivorous animals that survive on water and a green diet are not poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

These tortoises might make for good pets, but since they are an endangered species, you should never consider getting them as pets.

Did you know...

Galápagos Tortoises share a symbiotic relationship with Galápagos Finches, who clear their necks and bodies from ectoparasites.

Spanish explorers and sailors named the Islands 'Galapagos' in 1535 after seeing these distinct Giant Tortoises as the Spanish word for the tortoises can be translated as 'Galapagos'.

After discovery by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, around 100,000 tortoises or more were killed by hunters, traders, and sailors.

In determining the gender of the tortoises at birth, temperature plays the primary role with nests with low water temperature producing males and nests with high water temperature producing females.

Where do Galápagos Tortoises came from?

Galápagos Tortoises, as seen evidently from their name, are tortoises that are native to the Galápagos Islands. They were first discovered in the 15th century and later brought to mainstream attention following Charles Darwin's journey to these islands in 1835.

Are Galápagos Tortoises extinct?

Galápagos Tortoises are an Endangered species that range from Vulnerable to Extinct on the IUCN Red List. Two to three subspecies are already extinct, with conservation efforts being made for the remaining populations in the wildlife.

In these aspects of maintaining populations that have now dwindled down to less than 20,000, the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galápagos National Park in the Galápagos Islands have made great efforts with practices such as captive breeding.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including sand lizard facts, or bog turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Galapagos Tortoise coloring pages.

galápagos islands (part of ecuador) and some zoos only

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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