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Galapagos Islands reptiles, Giant tortoiseGalapagos Giant Tortoise: (Geochelone elephantopus) The Galapagos tortoise is the largest living tortoise. It can weigh over 500 pounds and measure 6 feet from head to tail. It is a very slow-moving animal, moving only 0.16 miles per hour. The Galapagos tortoise has a very large shell made of bone. The shell can be domed, saddle-backed, or somewhere in between. Domed shells are found on tortoises that live in areas with lush vegetation. Saddle-back shells allow the tortoise to reach vegetation higher off the ground. This shell is more common in areas with less vegetation.

Habitat: The giant tortoise sleeps for about sixteen hours each day and keeps cool either by taking mudbaths or by partly submerging itself in water. They can survive for long periods without drinking and obtain most of their moisture from the dew found on vegetation. Fresh young grass is the favourite food of the tortoise but in the drier regions of the Galapagos Islands this is often scarce so instead they feed on the Opuntia cactus.

Life Cycle: The female tortoise digs a hole in the ground and lays up to 20 leathery eggs each the size of a tennis ball. She then covers the nest and leaves. The eggs take 4-8 months to hatch and the young tortoises then have to fend for themselves. They take 20 to 30 years to reach maturity and can reach up to 500 Pounds in weight. They feed on a wide variety of plants such as cactuses and fruit. A Galapagos Tortoise may live as long as 200 years.

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