New discovery: Galapagos giant tortoise diet

Giant tortoises are doing their bit to combat invasive species on this wildlife-rich archipelago - by eating them.

Galapagos giant tortoise

The Galápagos Islands have their fair share of problematic introduced species. But the archipelago’s native giant tortoises seem to be gorging themselves on recent arrivals, according to new research.

Tortoises prefer them, said Stephen Blake of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, “for the same reason we prefer a nice big juicy plum to a sloe”. Indeed many species were introduced precisely because they were tasty and nutritious, whether to people or to livestock.

The reptiles’ selective grazing might help to keep some invasives in check, but their penchant for exotic fruit aids the dispersal of others.

Blake wonders how the native flora will respond. Will, say, the endemic guava, which is being rapidly displaced by a juicier introduction, start producing tastier fruit to compete for its dispersers’ attentions? Or will the species die out before it can launch an evolutionary counterattack?

Source: Biotropica


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