Reader Karen Bartelt sends picture of Giant Tortoises from the Galápagos, despite the variation, they are all subspecies of one species, Chelonidis nigra. Karen describes them as Geochelone, which is the genus of the ancestral species from South America, but there may have been some taxonomic revision of the group.
It’s not easy to see tortoises in the wild. I did see a small one on Isabella, but it was under a bunch of brush. The place where one is guaranteed to see them is the Santa Cruz highlands. Various farmers and landowners allow the tortoises to roam freely, and some offer “camps” where one can stay overnight. The first three photos are domed tortoises from Santa Cruz, Geochelone nigrita.
The last three photos are saddlebacked tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Center. The first two photos show the tortoises recently recovered from the Wolf Volcano area on Isabella. This is an exciting find, because these are hybrid (or even possibly pure) Pinta (Geochelone abingdoni; Lonesome George was thought to be the last) or Floreana (Geochelone galapagoensis) tortoises. As such, they represent a possible mechanism for reintroducing the two extinct species. They were found a few years ago. The story we got is that after the holds of pirate or whaling were stuffed full of tortoises, these ships sometimes sank, or were sunk. The lucky tortoises bobbed around until currents carried them to the northern tip of Isabella island, near Wolf Volcano. Because tortoises can live over 200 years, it’s possible that some purebreds of the “extinct” species are still roaming around, and scientists are still looking.
The very last photo is of Diego, a saddlebacked tortoise originally from Espanola (Geochelone hoodensis). He was returned from the San Diego Zoo in order to help reintroduce Espanola’s tortoise population. After goats were extirpated from Espanola, Diego and two other males were mated with about a dozen females which had also been brought to the center. By 2000, the 1000th young tortoise had been returned to Espanola, and Diego had fathered about half of them. As of 2016, there is no longer a breeding program for Espanola tortoises, and the population is considered stable. Diego is now a retired sex slave.
And we have two photos of fungi, a rarity here. The first is from reader Christopher:
Here’s a lovely, slightly rude fungus for you, the Dog Stinkhorn, Mutinus ravenelii, that I found under some trees in a school courtyard in Kansas City, Missouri last week. Quit a few fungi appear a bit phallic, but this one and its relative, the appropriately named Phallus ravenelii really don’t require much imagination, at least for d*g owners.
And from Alexandra Moffatt:
Button mushrooms: Agaricus bisporus, I think. Seen in the New Hampshire woods so I am not sure; the book says they grow in grasslands. I liked the decorative, purposeful pattern and the appearance that suggests a fungal army attacking a castle.