Galapagos tortoise

An iconic animal from the Galápagos and the largest tortoise on earth

Matthew Field

Sometimes regarded as 1 species with 14 subspecies, and sometimes as 14 different species. Either way, 2 of them are extinct.

They frequently reside on big, wet islands with abundant edible flora. There are two types of these tortoises: domed and saddle-backed tortoises. Dome-shelled tortoises lack an upward curve on their shell and tend to live on large, humid islands. The saddle-backed tortoises have an upward curve on their shell and tend to live on arid islands in Galapagos.

These tortoises were once very abundant throughout their range, but several episodes of human exploitation over the recent decades have caused their populations to plummet. Currently, the animals are protected but need more attention and conservation efforts.


Population est.
Official estimate

Did you know?

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

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No

Galapagos tortoise on banknotes

Ecuador 5,000 Sucres Banknote (1999)