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2017-03-11. Meet Diego, the Centenarian Whose Sex Drive Saved His Species.

posted Mar 13, 2017, 10:53 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Mar 13, 2017, 10:54 AM ]
By Nicholas Casey, The New York Times. For GSS Population Growth chapter 3. Excerpt: By fathering hundreds, a giant tortoise in the Galápagos Islands reversed the threat of extinction. Another, earning the name Lonesome George, was unable to do the same. ...Then came Diego, returned to the Galápagos in 1977 from the San Diego Zoo. ...The tales of Diego and George demonstrate just how much the Galápagos — a province of Ecuador — have served as the world’s laboratory of evolution. So often here, the fate of an entire species, evolved over millions of years, can hinge on whether just one or two individual animals survive from one day to the next. ...Abingdonii and hoodensis were easy prey for the buccaneers and whalers who poured onto their islands in previous centuries and saw only defenseless, slow-moving meals that could easily be carted away. Nor did it help that the giant tortoises of the Galápagos can survive for up to a year in the hull of a ship, meaning they provided a near-endless supply of fresh meat as they were stacked below decks by the hundreds. They were even tossed overboard when a ship needed to lose ballast for a quick getaway. ...Among those who dined on giant tortoise flesh: Charles Darwin. “We lived entirely on tortoise meat, the breastplate roasted … with flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup,” Darwin wrote in 1839, near the peak of the tortoise plunder in which some 200,000 were killed or carried away from the islands....  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/11/world/americas/galapagos-islands-tortoises.html