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Nature & Environment

Horror as 'gentle' giant tortoise attacks and eats seabird

By T.K. Randall
October 16, 2021 · Comment icon 19 comments

Tortoises on the island have adapted an unusual new behavior. Image Credit: Anna Zora / University of Cambridge
Researchers were shocked to discover that the vegetarian reptiles have started hunting down prey.
Weighing in at up to 417kg and measuring up to 1.3 meters in length, giant tortoises have a reputation for appearing outwardly nonchalant - shambling along, munching on vegetation and seeming about as dangerous as their much smaller, domestic counterparts that have been kept as pets for centuries.

Now however, researchers studying Seychelles giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) have made a shocking discovery that is likely to change how we perceive these 'gentle giant' reptiles.

During the summer of 2020, one of the tortoises was captured on camera attacking and then eating a tern chick on Fregate Island - a private luxury resort that is home to around 3,000 tortoises.

Other giant tortoises on the island have also been observed engaging in similar behavior.

"This is completely unexpected behavior and has never been seen before in wild tortoises," said Cambridge University's Dr. Justin Gerlach.
"The giant tortoise pursued the tern chick along a log, finally killing the chick and eating it."

"It was a very slow encounter, with the tortoise moving at its normal, slow walking pace - the whole interaction took seven minutes and was quite horrifying."

The discovery is quite remarkable because, until now at least, tortoises were all thought to be vegetarian, feasting only opportunistically on carrion and on bones and shells as a source of calcium.

It is the first time any tortoise species has ever been seen actively hunting and killing prey.

"These days Fregate island's combination of tree-nesting terns and giant tortoise populations is unusual, but our observation highlights that when ecosystems are restored totally unexpected interactions between species may appear; things that probably happened commonly in the past but we've never seen before," said Dr. Gerlach.

Source: Sci Tech Daily | Comments (19)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by thedutchiedutch 3 years ago
I love turtle. It's tasty 
Comment icon #11 Posted by Peterk505 3 years ago
My cat puked up a mole.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
Seen a croc ripping off the face of a zebra on youtube ?
Comment icon #13 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
I'll bet that video has already been removed. And no, I haven't.
Comment icon #14 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
A tortoise is an omnivorous feeder. It just isn't often that they find something slow enough for them to catch.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Mattacaster 3 years ago
That bird couldn't have been too bright itself. Instead of flying/hopping/walking away after a giant head tries to eat you, it moved a couple of inches away. Here comes the giant head again. Bird moves 4 inches away. Giant head. 4 inches. Giant head. Falls off log dead after being crushed by the mouth on the giant head. If it had waddled off away from the giant head, it would have survived. Here is this concept put into practice on a Walking Dead survival guide video.
Comment icon #16 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
Yeppers, that was evolution in action!
Comment icon #17 Posted by MysteryMike 3 years ago
This is just the beginning. Giant tortoises are beginning to re-evolve into dinosaurs.
Comment icon #18 Posted by InconceivableThoughts 3 years ago
Correct me if I'm wrong .... wouldn't it be evolve still? Not re-evolve, because I dont think things devolve or anything like that.... they just keep evolving and also ....dinosaurs aren't reptiles......
Comment icon #19 Posted by InconceivableThoughts 3 years ago
That bird species = extinct That tortoise and any like it will more than likely die as well mainly because of the other tortoises realize they need to evolve longer legs and lose the shells and evolve in to some type of lizard .  As for the video....smh....i was telling myself the whole time "he wont do it" and i feel so was the bird. He was like "Dude, man , gary whats wrong man? Like chill bruh! this Isnt like you ".....This had to the most climatic video ive ever seen. I knew what was going to happen  but it was played with my emotions for so long ... I was emotionally drained by the en... [More]

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