A pair of Galapagos tortoises standing on dirt ground.

Galápagos tortoise

Island giants

Type

lizard

Reptiles

Area

South America

South America

Endangered Status

Endangered

facts

size
up to 6 feet
4 to 5 feet across
The average bed is 6.25 feet long.
Galapagos tortoise size compared to a bed
food
plants
cactus, fruit, more
plant eater

Galápagos tortoises also eat flowers, leaves, and grasses.

habitat
grasslands
rocky, volcanic outcroppings
Grassland icon

description

A Galapagos tortoise peaking out of its large shell.

big, not bulky

Although Galápagos tortoises are huge animals that weigh several hundred pounds, their shells are not solid. Instead, they are made up of honeycomb structures that hold small air chambers. This makes the shell lighter and easier for the tortoise to carry.

Example of a saddleback shaped shell on a Galapagos tortoise

Island style

Each of the 13 larger islands in the Galápagos Islands has a different subspecies of the giant tortoise, uniquely suited for survival on that particular island’s habitat. For example, saddleback shells allow the tortoise to reach food found higher off the ground, like leaves on tall bushes. On desert islands, the tortoises are smaller and are able to survive on less food.

As people made homes on the Galápagos Islands, they brought animals such as rats, dogs, and cats, which eat tortoise eggs and young tortoises. This caused the number of tortoises on the islands to drop. Today, there are only about 10,000 to 15,000 tortoises living on the islands.

quiz

Are tortoise teeth sharp?
No
Yes

quiz

unique features

Galapagos tortoise half submerged in a watering hole.
A Galapagos tortoise stretches its neck tall as it looks at another Galapagos tortoise in front of it.

Long live the tortoise!

Galápagos tortoises can live a long time. Some of those at the San Diego Zoo are more than 100 years old!

A Galapagos tortoise eating cabbage and grass as it stretches its neck skyward

Save it for later

A Galápagos tortoise can go without eating or drinking for up to a year because it can store food and water in its body.

Galapagos tortoise walking

What's the rush?

Galápagos tortoises are in no hurry! They amble along at an astonishing 0.16 miles per hour. Humans walk at an average speed of 2.8 miles per hour.