Galapagos Tortoise Facts On What do Turtles Eat
A Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra or Geochelene elephantopus) is not the kind of turtle ( or should we say tortoise) you are likley to see very often.
Although they are some of the most well known land turtles in the world. And made famous by Charles Darwin during his famous trip aboard the Beagle to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Tortoise is one of the most endangered species in the world.
The Galapagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise in the world. It is also the 10th heaviest living reptile in the world. At times weighing as much as 880 lbs. They are HUGE!
But those aren’t the only records they hold. It is also known as one of the longest living vertebrates with life spans in the wild reaching well over 100 years.
In captivity the Galapagos tortoise has even be known to live for over 170 years! That’s a very long time.
Galapagos Tortoise – Where Are They Found?
The Galapagos Tortoise is native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 620 miles West of Ecuador, Central America.
And the differences between a Galapagos tortoise on one island compared to another is what help Charles Darwin come up with his Theory of Evolution.
And because of their limited habitat (their on an island), over hunting for their meat and oil, and habitat loss for agriculture, the Galapagos Tortoise is considered ”Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Overall, today there are currently 9 surviving species of Galapagos Tortoises.
- Chelonoidis nigra becki (Vulnerable)
- Chelonoidis nigra chathamensis (Vulnerable)
- Chelonoidis nigra darwini (Endangered)
- Chelonoidis nigra guentheri (Endangered)
- Chelonoidis nigra hoodensis (Critically Endangered)
- Chelonoidis nigra microphyes (Vulnerable)
- Chelonoidis nigra porteri (Endangered)
- Chelonoidis nigra vandenburghi (Vulnerable)
- Chelonoidis nigra vicina (Endangered)
And some extinct in the wild
- Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni (Lonesome George)
- Updated 6.24.12: At an estimated 100 years old, Lonesome George passed away. He was believed to be the last remaining Pinta Island Galapagos Tortoise. It is suspected that he died of heart failure which is consistent with the end of the natural life cycle of a Galapagos tortoise.
- Chelonoidis nigra duncanensis (Extinct in the wild)
With the death of Lonesome George it is thought that his genetic material is all but lost. According to Henry Nicholls, a leading expert on the Galapagos Tortoise and Lonsesome George, that may not be the case since there have been relatives found on the other islands that contain as much as 50% of Lonesome George’s genetic material.
This opens many doors for the world of conservation for this magnificent creatures.
What Do Turtles Eat – Galapagos Tortoise
What do turtles eat you ask? Well the Galapagos tortoise is what is known as a herbivore. This means that it almost exclusively eats plant based matter.
This is probably preferable since they are not the fastest animals in the world (quite the opposite) so it would be hard for them to catch any kind of live prey by chasing it down.
What Do Turtles Eat In The Wild – Galapagos Tortoise
These gentle giants are often seen to consume various types of vegetation and on average can eat as much as 70lbs to 80lbs of food per day. They like to eat:
Cacti, Grasses, Leaves, Lichens, Berries, etc.
And although they don’t drink much water they acquire most of their moisture from the dew and sap in vegetation (catus in particular) and can actually spend long periods without drinking water.
It has been observed that the Galapagos tortoise species can go up to 18 months without food or water. They survive by breaking down their own body fat which produces water as a by-product.
When thirst does over power them, they can drink large quantities of water quickly while storing it in their bladders for later use.
What Do Turtles Eat In Captivity – Galapagos Tortoise
Because of their endangered nature you will probably never ask what do turtles eat as pets. They are only found in captivity (legally) in zoos and wildlife preserves.
But in those well cared for environments the Galapagos tortoise is fed many of the same things that they are likely to come across in the wild. Including:
Grasses, Carrots, Cacti, Lettuce, Leaves, Various Fruits, Lichens, Berries, etc.
Knowing What Do Turtles Eat For A Happy And Healthy Galapagos Tortoise
And there you have it. When the Galapagos tortoise pops up as a topic of conversation, you now have a better understanding of how to answer the question what do turtles eat.
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Photo Credit: Dallas Krentzel