Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cylindraspis Tortoises

Cylindraspis peltastes
There were five different Tortoise species within the Cylindraspis genus:
  • Cylindraspis indica - Réunion giant tortoise
  • Cylindraspis inepta - Saddle-backed Mauritius giant tortoise
  • Cylindraspis peltastes - Domed Rodrigues giant tortoise
  • Cylindraspis triserrata - Domed Mauritius giant tortoise
  • Cylindraspis vosmaeri - Saddle-backed Rodrigues giant tortoise
All five have been extinct for around 200 years.

The Cylindraspis Tortoises were once found on the Mascarene Islands of Rodrigues, Réunion, and Mauritius (home of the Dodo). This small group of islands is located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar. They were first discovered by Europeans in 1507, and were colonized around a century later. When humans arrived, the Tortoises were abundant across the island chain, but within 100 years they were almost completely wiped out. A few decades after that they were gone entirely.

How and why did this fast extinction happen? Well, it is a story very similar to that of one of their more famous island neighbors-- the Dodo. These Tortoises were very large, and very slow moving. This made them easy targets for hunting, much like the Dodo. The Tortoises also required very little food and maintenance, which made them ideal creatures to take on boats as a food supply.

Some of the species saw a decline faster than others (the Réunion Giant Tortoise was nearly gone by 1730, for example). Most were eliminated by 1800, with the last individuals dying out by 1840.

Sadly, the Cylindraspis Tortoises are not the only island turtles to be negatively affected by humans, and even the popular Galapagos Tortoises have faced extinction (some subspecies are gone entirely). Hopefully modern conservation measures and learning from the past can prevent more Tortoises from going the way of the today's animals.

IUCN Status : Extinct by 1840
Location : Mascarene Islands
Size : Varies
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Testudines
Family : Testudinidae -- Genus : †Cylindraspis

2 comments:

  1. Did you mean to say "Hopefully modern CONVERSATION measures and learning from the past can prevent more Tortoises from going the way of the today's animals?" :) ;)

    ReplyDelete

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