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Cave Dwelling Tortoises
by KindMeal.my, 06 April 2016
Cave Dwelling Tortoises

For giant tortoises living in the tropics, you either find a way to get out of the sun, or you die. Usually, that means waiting out the hottest part of the day behind a rock or beneath the shade of a tree or bush. But on the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) have another strategy never before documented in tortoises, giant or otherwise—hiding out in caves.

During the rainy season from November to April, temperatures on Aldabra Atoll, part of the Seychelles, can soar upwards of 107 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit (42 to 43 degrees Celsius). This means the 100,000 or so giant tortoises that call this raised coral reef home must find shade or risk overheating and dying.

Tortoises are "ectothermic," which means their bodies warm up and cool down with the environment around them, says David Steen, a wildlife ecologist at Auburn University in Alabama who was unaffiliated with the study. “They can’t pant or sweat like mammals do to lower their body temperature,” he says. “They must find a cooler place to go.”

When the sun isn't blistering, the reptiles spend their time browsing through the atoll's grassy lowlands. Around mid-morning, the tortoises begin their descent to the cooler caves. “They all typically go en masse,” says Richard Baxter, a field biologist with the University of Zurich who's part of the study team. “It’s just this long stream of tortoises queuing up to get in, and it’s quite a slow process, as you can imagine.”

Animals have lots of smart, creative and unique ways to aid their survival. We can help give them a safer and more comfortable Earth by enjoying more meat-free meals — http://KindMeal.my.

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