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Considered endemic, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) is one of the largest tortoises in the world, native to the islands of Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Reaching up to 150 years in age, these tortoises are among the longest-lived animals on the planet.
See the fact file below for more information on the Aldabra Giant Tortoise or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Aldabra Giant Tortoise worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Generally known as Aldabrachelys gigantea, these species were used to be named Dipsochelys dussumieri. Two years later, the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) agreed to name it Testudo gigantea, letting its current scientific name acquire protection and immunity against its former name.
- There are four subspecies of the Aldabra giant tortoise: Aldabrachelys gigantea gigantea, Aldabrachelys gigantea arnoldi, extinct Aldabrachelys gigantea daudinii, and Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa.
ANATOMY AND APPEARANCE
- These tortoises are sexually dimorphic – there are differences in appearance between male and female Aldabra giant tortoises. Aside from having longer and thicker tails and weighing 240 kg (550 lbs), males are slightly larger than females, with an average length of 4 ft (122 cm). Females, on the other hand, measure around 3 ft (91 cm) and weigh about 159 kg (350 lbs).
- According to records, the world’s largest Aldabra giant tortoise seen in the wild weighed 350 kg (672 lbs).
- This tortoise species has a brown or tan high, dome-shaped carapace.
- Acting as a protective armour, the carapace is the upper (dorsal) part of the exoskeleton or shell in most arthropods and vertebrates.
- When looking for food, its long neck helps in reaching tree branches up to a meter from the ground.
- Their strong limbs are wrapped in bony scales, as well as their small, pointed head. They have thick, short, and rounded two-jointed legs, with flat feet which aide them when walking on the sand.
- Aldabra giant tortoises are diurnal animals – they are active by day when temperatures are cooler.
- They search for food individually or in groups on open grasslands.
- They also dig underground burrows in swamps, where they rest and keep cool during hot days.
- Regardless of being slow and guarded animals, these tortoises attempt risky acrobatic stunts, rising on their back legs to reach low branches.
- Mexican biologist José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez called this species the “ninjas” among the tortoises because of this unusual reaching behavior – they risk death by tipping onto their backs, resulting to their inability to stand on their feet.
- They are social animals. Male tortoises are territorial; they fight one another for breeding rights.
- They are easily tamed; these tortoises have the ability to recognize their keepers quickly.
- Aldabra giant tortoises lurch in mud to protect themselves against mosquitoes. Their average sleep is about 18 hours a day, although the number of hours depends on the individual tortoise.
HABITAT AND DIET
- These giant tortoises are endemic in the grasslands (platins) and swamps on the islands of Aldabra atoll, forming a part of the Seychelles island chain in the Indian Ocean. An atoll is an island made up of corals that surround a lagoon.
- They are mostly found in scrub areas, mangrove swamps, and coastal dunes. Aldabras once shared these islands with other giant tortoises before the latter were hunted to extinction in the early 17th and 18th centuries.
- Although they are known to live in dense, low-lying vegetation, they also roam in rocky regions when there is scarcity in food supply.
- They primarily feed on greenery and are known to scavenge seasonally available food. They come together in places covered in different grasses and herbs called tortoise turf. They can live without food or water for long periods. Aldabras are grazers and browsers.
- Aside from being herbivores, Aldabras are opportunistic reptiles which feed on small invertebrates and dead animals (carrions) for survival.
- Those that are held in captive are fed with weeds. In winter, they are on a hay and kale diet. Studies suggest that if tortoises are fed with meat products, fruits, and root vegetables, they can be prone to shell deformities, poor bone density, metabolic bone diseases, and kidney damage.
- Adult Aldabras have no predators in the wild because of their huge size. Smaller and young tortoises are usually vulnerable and are mostly preyed by larger species of crabs.
- Maturity of Aldabras depend on size rather than age. Most of them become capable of reproduction when they reach half their adult size, normally around two years of age.
- Mating tortoises produce noises, with males emitting a deep, loud wheezing vocalization, and chasing after females. It takes 10 to 15 minutes for copulation to take place.
- Between February and May, females lay nine to 25 eggs in dry, shallow nests on the ground, making them vulnerable and easily preyed on by predators.
- Temperature can also affect hatching. Young tortoises can come out 3.5 to 7 months after the egg has been laid, usually coinciding with the start of the rainy season.
- Baby tortoises are susceptible and defenseless against predators, such as birds and crabs, until their shells start to harden and they reach 15 to 20 pounds.
- Aldabras were hunted in groups, wiping out almost all of them in less than a century. Habitat loss due to human activities, such as deforestation and expansion of settlements, were also factors of these tortoises’ population decline. Climate change in the near future might also threaten their natural habitats.
- Today, the Aldabra Giant tortoises are vulnerable to extinction in the wild. Their natural habitat, Aldabra atoll, is now protected from human influence after being a world heritage site for housing 152,000 tortoises – the world’s largest population of these species.
- Known to eat vegetation, these tortoises feed on small trees and shrubs to gain nutrition, which is great for creating pathways in forestlands for other animals.
- Adwaita, a male Aldabra giant tortoise, is believed to have lived between 150 and 255 years of age. This tortoise died in 2006 at the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta, India.
- The Aldabra Giant tortoise has obtained four scientific names to date because of ongoing scientific debates about their resemblance to other large Indian Ocean tortoises species, including the now extinct Seychelles giant tortoise.
- Charles Darwin, together with other distinguished conservationists of the late 1800s and the governor of Mauritius, paved the way for these tortoises to receive species protection in the Aldabra atoll.
Aldabra Giant Tortoise Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Aldabra Giant Tortoise across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Aldabra Giant Tortoise worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) which is one of the largest tortoises in the world, native to the islands of Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Reaching up to 150 years in age, these tortoises are among the longest-lived animals on the planet.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Aldabra Giant Tortoise Facts
- Ninja Tortoise
- Aldabra’s Anatomy
- Ninja Facts
- A Tortoise’s Life
- More About This Tortoise
- Other Tortoise Species
- Turtle vs Tortoise
- Story Time
- Tortoise Symmetry
- How to Save Aldabra
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Use With Any Curriculum
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