Review and images by Suspsy; edited by bmathison1972
“I frequently got on their backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder part of their shells, they would rise up and walk away;—but I found it very difficult to keep my balance.” – Charles Darwin
Such was the experience of the legendary naturalist when he studied the giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands in 1835. Variations in their appearance and behaviour, along with those of other resident animals, helped Darwin to develop the theory of evolution, which he published in his masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859. Since then, the study of evolution has proven a seemingly limitless boon for our understanding of how life on Earth arose, changed, died out, and then arose again and again and again, over hundreds of millions of years. Thanks in large part to these humble and quiet reptiles.
What we call the Galápagos giant tortoise actually consists of at least 13 species, possibly more, in the Chelonoidis nigra-complex, spread out across many of the islands. They vary in terms of size, neck length, and carapace shape, and some can grow to weigh more than 400 kg. This makes the Galápagos tortoises the heaviest of all living land reptiles. I can’t be certain, but I believe that this 2020 figure from Schleich represents a Darwin Volcano tortoise (C. microphyes) from Isabela Island. It possesses a relatively short neck and a high domed carapace, which are characteristic of tortoises that live in humid highlands with abundant ground vegetation on the big islands. By contrast, those tortoises living on the small islands where there is less vegetation have “saddleback” carapaces with upward arches at the front edge and elongated necks. These adaptations may enable them to reach tall vegetation such as cacti.
Our tortoise here is sculpted in a walking pose with her neck extended out in front and her heavy body raised off the ground by her short, stout legs. How do I know this is a female? Well, if you turn her over, you can clearly see that her plastron is flattened. On a male tortoise, the plastron would be concave, which helps prevents him from slipping off the female’s carapace during mating. So whether intentional on the part of Schleich or not, we have a lady tortoise here.
From nose to tail tip, our tortoise measures 8 cm long. Her head, neck, limbs, and tail are painted a dull brown with dark brown wash to bring the detail. The beady eyes are black and the claws are dark grey. And finally, the shell is greenish-grey with faint pink wash.
The tortoise’s head and limbs are covered in scales while the neck and shoulder region have thick wrinkles. Both the carapace and plastron are covered in intricate circular patterns, somewhat similar to fingerprints. It all looks very similar to what you’d see on a real Galápagos tortoise. My only real complaint is that the tiny nostrils on the end of the short snout are barely visible.
Overall, I find this to be quite a nice tortoise figure and a good way to round out the reptiles in my boys’ wild animal collection. Recommended.