‘Totally Surprising and Pretty Scary’: Giant Turtles Eat Baby


It may be time to deprecate the phrase “kind giant”.

Researchers in Seychelles filmed a giant tortoise prey and swallowing a tern chick in one gulp. Scientists involved in the expedition say this is the first time such an action has been caught on camera. They are even shaken.

“It’s totally surprising and pretty creepy,” he said. Justin Gerlachis an island ecologist at Peterhouse, Cambridge, England. “The turtle deliberately follows this bird and kills it and then eats it. So yes, he is hunting.”

Giant tortoises, now found only in the Seychelles and the Galapagos Islands, were believed to be herbivores. In fact, their vegetarian diets are thought to have shaped their ecosystems, similar to elephants or bison. But a paper Published Monday in Current Biology, a co-author of the Frégate Island Foundation, Dr. Gerlach and Anna Zora explain that there are hints that heavy reptiles may occasionally supplement their diet. Turtles sometimes consume snail shells and bones from dead birds, goats and even other turtles. But hunting?

There were rumors that turtles were chasing helpless seabird chicks after they had fallen out of their nests. But until the video was shot – a little bit of PD Eastman’s “Are you my mom?” A scene like this arose. if instead it was written by Roald Dahl – Dr. Gerlach assumed that such an observation was at best a misunderstanding.

“No one called him, because why would you want to? Turtles don’t hunt,” said Dr. Gerlach. “You won’t waste your time looking for a hunting turtle.”

Now he wonders what else we can learn from these creatures. live more than 200 years and grow to over 500 pounds.

“It’s a pretty big mystery they uncovered here,” he said. James Gibbs, a herpetologist at the State University of New York and the Galapagos Conservancy who was not involved in the research.

Dr. When Gibbs watched the video, he was surprised at how slow and clumsy the attack developed.

“It’s a very interesting combination of industriousness and incompetence,” he said.

Dr. Gibbs has studied giant tortoises for nearly 30 years in the Galapagos, where he says turtles have developed an interesting relationship with birds.

Dr. “Turtles will stand up and stretch out all their limbs and tails, and the finches will come and clean them of ticks,” Gibbs said. “Over the years, I’ve heard that turtles sometimes fall to the ground and flatten the finches and eat them. But these were just anecdotes, and I’ve never seen it myself since I spent many years there.”

But there is no mistaking what is happening in the video from Seychelles. Indeed, the scientists point out that the turtle has shown signs of preying on seabird chicks before.

For example, when turtles eat leaves, grass or fruit, they extend their tongues and pull food into their mouths. But the turtle in the video has its tongue pulled back and its eyes closed – signs that it’s wary of a certain amount of danger with this food source.

Dr. “It behaves differently than normal feeding,” Gerlach said. “It’s not just about collecting food. He kills to gather food.”

Dr. The fact that the giant tortoise is female could be an important clue to the shocking behavior, according to Gibbs. Island systems tend to lack calcium, a critical mineral for building eggshells.

So, while watching a video of a giant tortoise attacking a helpless tern chick may be difficult for some people, predatory action may be one of the animals’ ways of ensuring the success of the next generation.

Dr. “We’re used to thinking that they’re not particularly interesting, that they move slowly, and that they’re probably pretty stupid,” Gerlach said of giant tortoises. “But obviously there’s a lot more to these animals.”


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