Near the springs it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with outstretched necks, and another set returning, after having drunk their fill.
- Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species
National Geographic has the most amazing photograph of Giant Tortoises in it this month (Go here http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/02/darwin then photo gallery and it's the last picture). It's the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species this year so the nature/science mags are falling over Darwin. I'll leave my lecture on Darwin and the Galapagos (or not so much the Galapagos it seems according to NG) until I get my mocking bird and finch photos together, but a quickie on these gentle giants. During his voyage of the Galapagos Darwin met the English Governor, Nicholas Lawson of Isla Floreana, who told him that he could tell with certainty which island a tortoise had come from by the shape their shell, supporting Darwin's view that a species had adapted to the habitat in which it lived. It took Darwin a while to get excited by this however as he failed to collect any of the tortoise carapaces in the islands he visited. Darwin and the crew of the Beagle simply ate the tortoises that they captured and threw away the shells.
National Geographic's NG's photograph made me go back to my tortoise pictures and look at them a bit more closely to see if I could salvage anything (I originally discarded all 104 of them as they were too bright, out of focus....), and on second look a few were pulled from the trash can. This creature was incredible, it is only really possible to see how big they are by looking at one next to me! They look ancient. Well I guess they are. The photograph below shows' a c.90 year old Lonesome George', he is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, and is labeled the rarest creature in the entire world.
You can get the entire current issue of National Geographic online, free! And there are photo competitions!!