One of the slowest and most docile animals earth apparently has a mean streak that scientists didn’t know existed until very recently.
In one of the slowest speed chases of all time, a giant tortoises was recently seen crushing the skull of a small seabird in its mouth and then consuming it.
Giant tortoises are believed to be strict vegetarians, this new video evidence contradicts that notion though. It is reportedly the first documented case of a giant tortoise hunting prey in the wild ever recorded.
The video, which stunned researchers, was filmed in the Seychelles Island chain, which is in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Giant tortoises are found only in Seychelles and in the Galapagos island off the coast of South America. They are most well-known for the longevity, as they average lifespan for giant tortoises exceeds 100 years.
In 2006 the two oldest giant tortoises in the world died. One was known to be approximately 176 years old while the other was believed to be potentially as old as 255.
The footage shows a female tortoise very slowly approach a Noddy Tern chick, a common species of seabird.
The baby bird does not appear to feel threatened by the tortoise, but the situation soon turns deadly as the tortoise very slowly reaches out with an open mouth and takes a chomp. Its lights out for the Noddy Tern after that. Then the tortoise feasts.
Justin Gerlach, a researcher with Live Science was particularly shocked by the footage.
“The bird does exactly the wrong thing. If it had hopped off the log, it could have got away easily.”
He says the confident and deliberate nature in which the tortoise approaches the tern indicates that it’s likely not the first time the tortoise has hunted a meal down.
“It’s clearly trying to injure the bird. And then it goes, it goes all the way and kills it. In most ecosystems potential prey would be too fast or agile for giant tortoises.
The direct approach to the chick on the log suggests that the tortoise had experience of being able to capture a chick in such a situation, where it was likely to try to remain on the log, above ground-level, as is typical of tern chicks that have fallen from nests in trees.
This indicates that this type of interaction is not infrequent for this individual. The observation of other tortoises hunting and consuming birds suggests that this behavior has been adopted by several individuals.”