Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Karen Bartelt sends picture of Giant Tortoises from the Galápagos, despite the variation, they are all subspecies of one species, Chelonidis nigraKaren 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.  
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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 galapagoensistortoises.  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. 


  1. busterggi
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Very nice, I used to collect photos of slime molds but don’t have any e-versions of them.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Slime molds have become a recent obsession of mine. I have a small one growing in a Tupperware dish under my bed, and I’ve been finding a good selection of them all over in a local park lately. It makes me even more desperate to get a higher powered microscope to get a better view of the spores and the cytoplasmic flow in the plasmodia like stage. Like little alien works of art they are!

      • busterggi
        Posted September 29, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        They are but bird’s nest fungi are cuter.

        • Christopher
          Posted September 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          I’ve yet to see bird’s nest fungi in the wild. I’d have to check to see if they even exist in my neck of the woods. They are nifty, but they don’t look like they could possibly be real.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Very nice. I especially like the varieties of saddlebacked tortoises.

  3. loren russell
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I can’t get the rez up enough to be sure, but the fungi are most certainly not A. bisporus, which isn’t likelly to be found growing clustered on decaying wood. They are most likely a small puffball, Lycoperdon sp. [Etymology: “wolf-fart!]. You could be sure by slicing one of the buttons longitudinally. Gills would be present in a mushroom. If you think it’s an Agaricus, they should be pink at this stage; if developing gills are white in a button-like mushroom, you should be thinking Amanita..

    The ease with which you can be led astray by superficial resemblances made me give up offering mushroom ID courses a long time ago.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 29, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      and do they get that name from the smell?

      and while we’re at it, what’s the story behind Amanita vaginata?

    • SnowyOwl
      Posted September 29, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Lycoperdon sp, puffballs.

    • alexandra moffat
      Posted September 30, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Thank you – as indicated, I was hesitant to so label them – and was sure that the correct one would emerge from this knowledgeable group.

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if it’s the same in America, but as a teenager whose friends all had huge, randy dee-oh-gees who’d sprawl themselves at your feet in slatternly fashion, the word they used to refer to the tumescent canine member was ‘lipstick’; as in ‘ugh, look at his lipstick’, ‘stop giving him biscuits and stroking him, his lipstick’s coming out’, etcetera.

    Just saying. Don’t blame me for the imagery.

  5. Christopher
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only heard Brits refer to d*g wieners as lipstick but it is disturbingly clear slang.

    And oh the joy of those tortoises! To see them in person on the islands would be a childhood dream come true and the closest thing to a religious experience I could ever imagine. So very envious of you! They really put my perverse fungus to shame.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Tortoises are such cool creatures. I too am envious of your trip to see them. I wonder if Diego actually wanted to be retired, and if he misses it?

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