Other members of the family Testudinidae are generally small (7–35 centimetres (2.8–14 in) long). C. atlas is the largest known member of the family, with a shell length of about 2.1 metres (6.9 ft), an estimated total length of 2.5 to 2.7 metres (8.2 to 8.9 ft) and an approximate total height of 1.8 metres (5.9 ft). Weight estimates vary greatly: some go as high as 3 to 4 metric tonnes (= 3000 to 4000 kilograms), but a weight of around 1 metric tonne (1000 kilograms)[2 at most] is probably more realistic (Paul and Leahy, 1994). The only bigger turtles were the oceanic Archelon and Protostega from the Cretaceous period. Colossochelys atlas probably looked similar to a giant Galápagos tortoise.
Like the modern Galápagos tortoise, Colossochelys atlas's weight was supported by four elephantine feet. Since most members of the related genus Testudo are herbivores, paleontologists presume C. atlas had the same diet. When a predator threatened it, C. atlas could probably retract its limbs and head into its shell, just like its modern relatives.
ReferencesPaul, G.S., and Leahy, G.D. (1994). Terramegathermy in the time of the titans: Restoring the metabolics of colossal dinosaurs. Paleontol. Soc. Spec. Publ. 7, 177-198
Bakker, Robert. The Dinosaur Heresies. 1. New York: Zebra, 1996.
Prior to the arrival of Homo sapiens, giant tortoises occurred in non-island locales as well. Between 200,000 to 10,000 years ago, tortoises on the mainland of Asia, in Indonesia, in Madagascar, in North and South America, and even the island of Malta became extinct.
These animals belong to an ancient group of reptiles, appearing about 250 million years ago. In the Upper Cretaceous, 70 or 80 million years ago some already became gigantic. About 1 million years ago tortoises reached the Galápagos Islands. Since 100,000 years ago most of the gigantic species began to disappear. Only 250 years ago there were at least 20 species and subspecies in islands of the Indian Ocean and 14 or 15 subspecies in the Galápagos Islands.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Galápagos were frequented by buccaneers preying on Spanish treasure ships. Filling a ship's hold with tortoises was an easy way to stock up on food, a tradition that was continued by whalers in the centuries that followed: "'whaling skippers were almost lyrical in their praise of tortoise meat, terming it far more delicious than chicken, pork or beef'. They said the meat of the giant tortoise was 'succulent meat and the oil from their bodies as pure as butter, but best of all, the giants could hibernate in a ship’s damp for a year or more.'"
Today, only one of the species of the Indian Ocean survives in the wild, the Aldabra giant tortoise (two more are claimed to exist in captive or re-released populations, but some genetic studies have cast doubt on the validity of these as separate species) and 11 subspecies in the Galápagos.
Giant tortoises are among the world's longest-living animals, with an average lifespan of 100 years or more. The Madagascar radiated tortoise Tu'i Malila was 188 at death in Tonga in 1965. Harriet (initially thought to be one of the three Galápagos tortoises brought back to England from Charles Darwin's Beagle voyage but later shown to be from an island not even visited by Darwin) was reported by the Australia Zoo to be 176 years old when she died in 2006. Also, on 23 March 2006, an Aldabra giant tortoise named Adwaita died at Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata. He was brought to the zoo in the 1870s from the estate of Lord Robert Clive and is thought to have been around 255 years old when he died. Around the time of its discovery, they were caught and killed for food in such large quantities that they became virtually extinct by 1900. The giant tortoise is now under strict conservation laws and is categorised as an endangered species.
- ^ a b c d e Hansen, D. M.; Donlan, C. J.; Griffiths, C. J.; Campbell, K. J. (April 2010). "Ecological history and latent conservation potential: large and giant tortoises as a model for taxon substitutions". Ecography (Wiley) 33 (2): 272–284. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2010.06305.x. http://www.advancedconservation.org/library/hansen_etal_2010.pdf. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- ^ Cione, A. L.; Tonni, E. P.; Soibelzon, L. (2003). "The Broken Zig-Zag: Late Cenozoic large mammal and tortoise extinction in South America". Rev. Mus. Argentino Cienc. Nat., n.s. 5 (1): 1–19. ISSN 1514-5158. http://www.ege.fcen.uba.ar/materias/general/Broken_ZigZagMACN_5_1_19_.pdf. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- ^ "Floreana History – Pre 1900’s". Diving The Galapagos blog for. DiveTheGalapagos.com. 2009-07-28. http://divingthegalapagos.com/the-galapagos-islands/floreana-history-pre-1900s. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
It would seem that the myth originates in the arera of Sundaland and adjoining-India, where pockets of Colossochelys survived and where they were not only economically exploiteed, they are indicated to have been of a particular religious and ritual status, along with the horned turtle Meiolania in Australia, New Guinea and Islands farther to the East.
The animal was rather large, measuring 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length, making it the second-largest known nonmarine turtle or tortoise, surpassed only by Colossochelys atlas from Asia, which lived in the Pleistocene. It lived in Australia and New Caledonia. Remains have also been found on the island of Efate in Vanuatu, associated with settlements from the Lapita culture. Meiolani turtles fed on plants. Its surviving relatives are the cryptodire turtles of South America. The Meiolania specimens which were once living on New Caledonia and Lord Howe Island were much smaller than their giant relatives from the Australian continent.
When the first fossil remains (a vertebra) were found, they were originally thought to be from a large monitor lizard, similar to, but smaller than Megalania, so the genus was named accordingly. Later, when more remains were found, it was realized that the "small roamer" was actually a turtle, and not a lizard. Synonyms include Miolania and Ceratochelys.
skull that sported many knob-like and horn-like protrusions. Two large horns faced sideways, giving the skull a total width of 60 centimetres (2.0 ft), and would have prevented the animal fully withdrawing its head into its shell. The tail was protected by armored 'rings', and sported thorn-like spikes at the end. The body form of Meiolania may be viewed as having converged towards those of dinosaurian ankylosaurids and xenarthran glyptodonts.
- ^ White, A. W.; Worthy, T. H.; Hawkins, S.; Bedford, S.; Spriggs, M. (2010-08-16). "Megafaunal meiolaniid horned turtles survived until early human settlement in Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107 (35): 15512–15516. doi:10.1073/pnas.1005780107. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/35/15512.short. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
- ^ Palmer, D., ed (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 67. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
- Barry Cox, Colin Harrison, R.J.G. Savage, and Brian Gardiner. (1999): The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures: A Visual Who's Who of Prehistoric Life. Simon & Schuster.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
DALE DRINNON: "Galapagos" tortoises in China
The supposition that the Chinese were aware of giant tortoises is based on statures of Dragon Turtles in Bejing (Peking) and elsewhere, and Dragon Turtles are traditional auspicious Chinese legendary creatures. They do not mean the same thing as the Black Warrior Tortoise of the North, which is a constellation. Looking at the depictions of the Dragon turtles you can see that the heads are vaguely shaped like a Galapagoes tortoise (Freely interpreted to add "Dragonlike" features such as whiskers) and the long neck is similar. BUT there are Tortoises nearly as large and of much the same anatoomy at the Aldabara Islands near Madagascar, and while it is theory that the Ming Chinese made it to the Galapagoes Islands, it is on the other hand a plain fact that we know the Ming Chinese reached East Africa and Madagascar. Their distinctive china is found all over the place.
Besides that much, there used to be many other islands with giant tortoises, including some islands of Indonesia. And at one point cryptid Giant Tortoises could well have co-existed with humans in India and China-old Greek records imply that much. So there are any number of alternative candidates that would be more likely than the Galapagoes giant tortoises, with a favoritism on Aldabara ones (But not discounting the possibility that the Chinese also knew of such tortoises on Madagascar or any of a number of other places. Chinese were fond of drawing Dragon Tortoises all over their maps in the spirt of "Here There Be Dragons")
Best Wishes, Dale D.