The order Chelonia (meaning double shelled) or Testudines (Latin for tortoise) is ancient indeed. Its members had essentially similar forms 150 million years ago. They are widely distributed and fall into two main groups. The members of one suborder, the Cryptodira, have the ability to retract their necks into the shell. There are 11 families in this suborder, with 180 species that are found mostly in the northern hemisphere. The second suborder, Pleurodira, cannot retract their necks and are found only in the southern hemisphere. The Galapagos tortoise belongs to the former group and is one of the giant tortoises that may weigh up to 600 pounds, grow to 5 feet in length, and that lives probably well over 150 years. Most taxonomists use the word tortoise to describe those testudinae that are exclusively terrestrial (Geochelone), the term turtle being a more encompassing designation. The word tortoise also has its roots in another Latin word, tortus, which makes reference to the animals twisted legs, and with the designation elepfiantopus, reference is made to the enormous dimension of their feet from which only tiny nails protrude.
KeywordsLatin Word Galapagos Island Horny Layer Captive Management Culinary Purpose
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