Naturalist: Giant Tortoise

Describe role: Darwin has observed a lot of huge tortoises on the various islands of Galapagos that are very different from thoses he observed on the continent of South America. He has asked you to collect as much information about these unusual tortoises as you can and organize this information in the form of a report your team will make to the Research Seminar. He would also like you to propose a reason why these reptiles are so different from their relatives on the mainland. Why have they grown so large? On this page you can see some drawings made by the ship's artist of these giants.

Background Information: You are to follow the URL's provided below and read the information. From this information you are to prepare your report that you will present to the larger group:

TerraQuest site with lots of general information---includes links to birds, tortoise, land lizzards, insects, plant life.(Explore this site carefully. Check out the History link, Darwin's Visit, and then Evolution. Continue with Wildlife where you can find a Checklist of species with lots of detail and animals located in the various Zones.)

Giant tortoise with young girl

Giant tortoise,critter of the day

Giant tortoises photo, information. Discover Galapagos site with great detail on the subspecies of Geochelone elephantophus.

Giant tortoise--head shot. Note information under photo that tells how many subspecies of tortoise there used to be, how many have survived to present and how many are actually reproducing well.

Charles Darwin Foundation with links to many animals, volcanoes, history, island information

NSTA animal gallery-2 tortoise subspecies

NSTA details on animals

DNA analysis used to repatriate island tortoise

You may also refer back to the sites listed on the Process page for information from Darwin's Journal:

Voyage of the Beagle

Darwin's books The Origin of the Species and Voyage of the Beagle


Report: You are to present your report in the form of a research paper to the Research Group (which will be the rest of the class). You are encouraged to use visuals...overhead transparency, photographs, or photos from the web to present your informataion. Each member of your team should have part in the presentation. You should be well organized so that you can present your report withing 10-15 minutes. It is preferred that you not read the report but rather explain what you learned in your own words using an outline. Images from the Internet may be projected on our TV in our room if you have the URL.

You should include in the report: (A chart might be convenient to organize information.)

1. The common name as well as scientific name of the tortoises.

2. A description of habitat, food sources, where located.

3. A list of characteristics that are unusual about each species.

4. A photograph or picture of the species. (This can be projected on our TV via a Web link.)

5. A proposal(s) for why the tortoise are so different from their mainland relatives.

6. A proposal as to why the two main tortoise species on the Islands developed differently.

7. Add any other information you think is important to mention.