Tag Archives: Chelonoidis

Chelonoidis monensis (Williams)

Mona Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis monensis)  

This species is known from subfossil remains that were found on Mona Island, a small island halfway between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.  

The species has probably survived until the first human settlers appeared at around 3000 BP.  


There also appears to exist a painting in a cave on the island that obviously depicts such a tortoise.  



[1] Anders G. J. Rhodin; Scott Thomson; Georgios L. Georgalis; Hans-Volker Karl; Igor G. Danilov; Akio Takahashi; Marcelo S. de la Fuente; Jason R. Bourque; Massimo Delfino; Roger Bour; John B. Iverson; H. Bradley Shaffer; Peter Paul van Dijk: Turtles and Tortoises of the World During the Rise and Global Spread of Humanity: First Checklist and Review of Extinct Pleistocene and Holocene Chelonians.  and Holocene Turtles of the World Checklist – 2015 000e.1 Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group A. G. J. Rhodin, P. C. H. Pritchard, P. P. van Dijk, R. A. Saumure, K. A. Buhlmann, J. B. Iverson, and R. A. Mittermeier, Eds. Chelonian Research Monographs 5. 2015  


edited: 06.09.2019

Chelonoidis sp. ‘Santa Fé’

Santa Fe Tortoise (Chelonoidis sp.)  

The Isla Santa Fé, also known as Barrington Island, is a small, only about 24 km² large island, but may very well have once harbored its own endemic population of tortoises.  

There are three reasons to assume the former existence of a local population.:  

Firstly: Contemporaneous accounts by settlers and whalers, the latest of which dating from 1890, which also mention tortoise hunts on the island.  

Secondly: Subfossil and recent tortoise bones are well known from the island, yet no part of a carapace is known, thus the exact status of these remains cannot be ascertained.  

However, tortoises were transported in the 19th century from one island to another, without any kind of registering, thus these two abovementioned reasons may in fact also apply to a imported tortoise population.  But there is still the third and best reason ….  

Thirdly: By far the best evidence for the former existence of a endemic tortoise population comes from the island’s flora – the Barrington Island Tree Opuntia (Opuntia echios var. barringtonensis E. Y. Dawson) is an endemic variety of the typical tree-like opuntias that have evolved only on islands with tortoises, while the opuntia forms on tortoise-free islands are always growing as low creeping bushes, because, in the absence of large herbivorous tortoises they just did not need to develop a trunk.  

Thus there simply must have been a local race or species of tortoise on the Isla Santa Fé!  


In spite of everything, the Santa Fe Tortoise is still officially regarded as a hypothetical form.  


References:  [1] Dennis M. Hansen; C. Josh Donlan; Christine J. Griffiths; Karl J. Campbell: Ecological history and latent conservation potential: large and giant tortoises as a model for taxon substitutions. Ecography Vol. 33(2) 272–284. 2010


edited: 26.07.2013

Chelonoidis abingdonii (Günther)

Pinta Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii)  

This species was described in 1877, it was endemic to the somewhat isolated Isla Pinta aka. Abingdon Island in the northern part of the Galápagos archipelago.

The species was thought to be extinct, when in 1971, a last individual was located, it was a male that was named ‘Lonesome George’ and was relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz for his safety.

Several attempts at mating Lonesome George with females of other tortoise species were unsuccessful, possibly because his species was not cross-fertile with the other species.


Lonesome George (see photo), the last member of its species, died at 24 June 2012.


It seems that there are still some individuals in existence that at least harbor some DNA of this extinct species within their blood.


Photo: putneymark


edited: 01.06.2021

Chelonoidis cubensis (Leidy)

Giant Cuban Tortoise (Chelonoidis cubensis)

The Giant Cuban Tortoise was endemic to the island of Cuba; the species disappeared sometimes during the Holocene, very likely due direct hunting pressure by the first human settlers.


edited: 17.08.2022