Komodo Island

About Galapagos Tortoises

There are 14 described subspecies of the Galapagos tortoise, of which 11 still exist. They can be divided into two groups depending on their main food source. Where ground vegetation is the main source of food the tortoises are called “dome-shelled.” Those that feed on higher-growing cactus have a curved shell front to allow their long neck to reach the pads. These are referred to as “saddle-backed” tortoises. 

Galapagos tortoises can range in size from 29 inches (shell length) and 60 pounds to 4 feet and 700 pounds. There is little variation in color. They are a dull brown all over. Males are typically larger than females. The plastron, or bottom shell, of the male is slightly dented which aids in mating. Like other tortoises, they have claws on their feet to aid in walking around on land, whereas turtles have webbed feet or flippers to aid in swimming.

The giant tortoises are generally very inactive. Like other reptiles, they are ectothermic (cold-blooded), so they spend the first part of their day sunning to warm up their large bodies, and they spend the rest of the day grazing. They usually spend the cool nights half-submerged in mud or water or burrowed into dense brush. This keeps the body warm, which aids digestion.

Galapagos Tortoise at the Akron Zoo

The Akron Zoo’s Galapagos tortoises live in the Komodo Kingdom building.

  • Boxie – female, born 1951
  • Pagos – female, born April 19, 1989