Emerson, a male tortoise approximately 100 years old and weighing about 400 pounds, arrived at the Toledo Zoo from the San Diego Zoo late on Aug. 27 and is scheduled to be on exhibit at the zoo’s Tiger Terrace area. The species is native to the Galapagos Islands, near Ecuador and off the western coast of South America. Galapagos tortoises can live for 150 or so years, with males measuring up to 6 feet long and weighing as much as 500 pounds (females are smaller).
This species was among the animals that Charles Darwin observed when he traveled to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. The information Darwin gleaned from that trip helped shape his resulting theory of evolution by natural selection, which has become the cornerstone of modern biological science.
While the species is thought to have numbered in the tens of thousands before pirates and whalers started hunting them, four of the Galapagos tortoise’s 14 subspecies have gone extinct. The surviving species face competition for resources from nonnative animals humans have introduced to the islands. Although few animals could kill a full-grown tortoise, many animals eat the tortoises’ eggs, decimating reproduction rates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable.
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