Thursday, February 24, 2011

Galapagos Reptiles and Crustaceans

During the visit I saw land and marine iguanas, sea turtles and land tortoises, and wonderfully colored Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Here are some samples of the special creatures of the Galapagos.

The final photo is of Lonesome George who now resides at the Charles Darwin Center. George is the last of his species. The tortoises of the Galapagos evolved over time until theywere quite distinct from island to island. During the couple hundred years humans have visited and inhabited the islands the tortoise population dropped dramatically. Animals were introduced that competed for food and ate eggs, and sailors caught the giant land tortoises and put them on their backs in the holds of the ships for future meat. A tortoise can last for months without food or water, and placed on their backs they could not escape. It meant fresh meat after months at sea.
On some islands the tortoises have short necks, on others their necks can stretch well above them to brouse on leaves of shrubs and trees. The shells, likewise, are adapted to the terrain, the need to stretch necks etc. In the case of George, he was the very last tortoise on his island when they decided to move him. Using DNA testing a couple of females from another island but with close DNA were placed in his pen. However, non of the eggs laid were fertile. Attempts continue but he isn't showing much interest.

marine iguanas above and Sally Lightfoot crabs moving across the rocks.

land iguana

marine iguana

The Galapagos Islands are part of a volcanic chain. Here is an example of rope lava which has split.

Lonesome George

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