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  • Writer's pictureMermaid Seren

Fishy February; A-Z of a Mermaid's Friends (T)

T - Tortoise

The Giant Tortoise 😊 They may not be able to swim, but they’re our friends all the same! There are many subspecies of Giant Tortoises that are found on different islands and have different appearances. Those that live on the larger islands where there is more rain have “dome” shaped shells, while those that live in drier conditions are smaller tortoises and have a “saddleback” shell. They can grow up to 4ft long and weigh over 400kg! Their lifespan in the wild is over 100 years; making them one of the longest-lived vertebrates! Charles Darwin and Steve Irwin both cared for the same tortoise, called Harriet, and she lived to be 175! Tortoises are very good at holding their breath! They have to empty their lungs before they go into their shells - you might even hear them exhale if they’re startled and decide to hide! Their shells are sensitive to touch! Shells have nerve endings, and so they can feel every touch! Their extinction risk has been classed as Vulnerable. Numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970’s. This decline was caused by overexploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats, and pigs.


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