Galapagos Tortoise

Charles Darwin and Tortoises

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

This tortoise was given by Mr John Warton to Scarborough
Philosophical Society in 1840. In 1913, Walter Rothschild recognised that it was the only existing specimen of the long extinct Barrington Island Tortoise. Realising it was of such scientific value he had it 'conserved' and had three bronze casts made of the tortoise, which he donated to the British Museum, the Tring Museum and the California Academy.

We think the tortoise is from Charles Island, part of the Galapagos Islands, which Charles Darwin visited to make his studies about 'evolution'. The bones and shell of this tortoise are similar to those found on Charles Island. 

Tragically, the tortoise population of Charles Island disappeared shortly after Darwin visited in the 1830s. This was probably due to sailors taking the tortoises as a source of food and water on the long voyage back to Europe.

Discussion Ideas:

  • What are your feelings about tortoises becoming extinct possibly due to sailors using them as food?
  • What do you think understand by the words 'evolution' and 'conservation'?
  • Can you think how this might have been avoided?
  • See if you can find out about other species in danger of extinction in today
  • See if you can find out if there is anything about Charles Darwin on My Learning
  • For EYFS/KS1 What journey has this tortoise been on? Where is he from? What has he seen on his travels?

Young person's response to this object:

I love all of the unique features of the Galapagos tortoise that make it so different from other breeds across the globe. It clearly represents the wondrous and mysterious animals found in the Galapagos.
Jordon Keighley

Darwin also studied Geology on his famous voyage on board The Beagle - find out about other famous Geologists on My Learning.
The island known as Florean Island is part of the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador in South America. Use this Google map to see how very remote it is.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Scarborough Museums Trust | 
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