Giant Tortoises, also know as Galapagos tortoises, are mainly found in the highlands of Islands like Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, San Cristobal and Española. However, giant tortoise are also often seen on lower elevations during the warm / wet season. Giant tortoises are endemic to Galapagos with 14 subspecies recorded around the archipelago. Their total population is estimated to a number of 15,000.
Galapagos tortoises are unmistakable due to their large size and distinctive shape. The Galapagos tortoise exhibits two distinct carapace shapes: dome-shelled and saddle-backed, although intermediate forms do occur. In all subspecies the sexes are alike, although males are much larger than females, and have a concave plastron (ventral plate) and a noticeably longer and thicker tail.
Giant tortoises are usually only active from about 08:00 until 16:00. Mating may occur in almost any month of the year but reaches a peak during the warm / wet season, with eggs usually hatching between December and April. Sexual maturity of a Galapagos tortoise is attained at the age of about 20 - 25 years. During the breeding season male giant tortoises chase each other and posture by raising their heads as high as possible, the dominant individuals being those able to raise their heads the highest.
Chelonoidis elephantopus, a type of giant Galapagos tortoise that was thought to be extinct has been "found" in the genome of a similar species, Chelonoidis becki. Read more about the Galapagos Tortoise species not extinct.