Chelonoidis elephantopus (Harlan, 1827:284)

Floreana (Island) giant tortoise, Charles Island giant tortoise, Elephant tortoise



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Chelonoidis niger niger Quoy & Gaimard, 1824b:174; Geochelone nigra nigra Quoy & Gaimard, 1824b:174; Geochelone nigra galapagoensis (Baur, 1889:1044); Testudo galapagoensis Baur, 1889; Testudo nigra Quoy & Gaimard, 1824b; Chelonoidis nigra Quoy & Gaimard, 1824b; Geochelone californiana Quoy & Gaimard, 1824a:90 (nomen oblitum); Geochelone nigra elephantopus (Harlan, 1827:284); Testudo elaphantopus Harlan, 1827:284 (original combination); Chelonoidis nigra elephantopus (Harlan, 1827:284); Geochelone elephantopus (Harlan, 1827:284)


Conservation Status


Last record: Holocene fossils (Steadman, 1986); c.1835-1850?

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


Hybrid individuals with G. elephantopus ancestry exist in captivity (Russello et al. 2010; Quinzin et al., Accepted). However, although no pure G. elephantopus are known to exist, they may still survive (Garrick et al. 2012).



Floreana Island (=Charles Island = Santa Maria Island), Galápagos Islands, Ecuador


Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

Quoy, J. R. C. and Gaimard, J. P. (1824b). "Sous-genre tortue de terre – testudo. brongn. tortue noire – testudo nigra. N.". In de Freycinet, M.L. (in French). Voyage autour du Monde...exécuté sur les corvettes de L. M. "L'Uranie" et "La Physicienne," pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820. Paris. pp. 174-175.


Other references:

Baur, G. (1889). The gigantic land tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. The American Naturalist 23(276): 1039-1057.

Broom, R. (1929). On the extinct Galápagos tortoise that inhabited Charles island. Zoologica 9: 313-320.

Cayot, Linda J. and Hunter, Elizabeth A. (2020). Floreana and Pinta Islands: Restoring tortoise populations through lost lineage recovery, pp. 465-481. In: Gibbs, James P., Cayot, Linda J. and Aguilera, Washington Tapia (eds.). Galapagos Giant Tortoises: A volume in Biodiversity of World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. Academic Press. [Abstract]

Darwin, Charles. (1839). Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of Various Countries Visited by the H.M.S. Beagle, Under the Command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N., from 1832 to 1836 (Henry Colburn, London).

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

Garrick, Ryan C. et al. (2012). Genetic rediscovery of an ‘extinct’ Galápagos giant tortoise species. Current Biology 22(1): R10-R11.

Garman, Samuel. (1917). The Galapagos tortoises. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 30(4): 261-296.

Günther, Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf. (1875). Description of the Living and Extinct Races of Gigantic Land-Tortoises. Parts I. & II. Introduction, and the Tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 165: 251-284.

Harlan, Richard. (1827). Description of a land tortoise, from the Galápagos Islands, commonly known as the "Elephant Tortoise". Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 5: 284-292.

Hennessy, Elizabeth and Gibbs, James P. (2022). When De-extinction Really Happens: The Revival of the Floreana Giant Tortoises in the Galápagos Archipelago. Environmental History 27(2): 334-339.

MacFarland, Craig G., Villa, José and Toro, Basilio. (1974). The Galápagos giant tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus) part II: conservation methods. Biological Conservation 6(2): 198-212.

Miller, Joshua M. et al. (2017). Identification of Genetically Important Individuals of the Rediscovered Floreana Galápagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) Provide Founders for Species Restoration Program. Scientific Reports 7: 11471.

Miller, Joshua M. et al. (2018). Genetic Pedigree Analysis of the Pilot Breeding Program for the Rediscovered Galapagos Giant Tortoise from Floreana Island. Journal of Heredity. [Abstract]

Moll, D., Brown, L. E., & Resetar, A. (2020). Origins of the Extinct, Subfossil Galápagos Giant Tortoises (Chelonoidis niger) of the Post Office Lava Tube (Inferior) of Floreana Island: Voluntary or Accidental Occupancy? Tropical Natural History 20(2): 134-143.

Olson, Storrs L. (2015). More on the status of Testudo nigra Quoy and Gaimard and Testudo nigrita Duméril and Bibron as nomina dubia for Galapagos tortoises (Testudines: Testudinidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 128(4): 204-208. [Abstract]

Olson, Storrs L. and Humphrey, J. R. (2017). The island of origin of Richard Harlan's Galapagos tortoise Testudo elephantopus. Archives of Natural History 44(1): 110-117. [Abstract]

Olson, Storrs L. and David, Normand. (2014). The gender of the tortoise genus Chelonoidis Fitzinger, 1835 (Testudines: Testudinidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 126(4): 393-394.

Parham, James F. (2008). Rediscovery of an ‘‘extinct’’ Galápagos tortoise. PNAS 105(40): 15227-15228.

Poulakakis, Nikos; Glaberman, Scott; Russello, Michael; Beheregaray, Luciano B.; Ciofi, Claudio; Powell, Jeffrey R.; Caccone, Adalgisa. (2008). Historical DNA analysis reveals living descendants of an extinct species of Galapagos tortoise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(40): 15464-15469.

Poulakakis, Nikos et al. (2020). Colonization history of Galapagos giant tortoises: Insights from mitogenomes support the progression rule. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. doi: [Abstract]

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (1984). Further thoughts on Lonesome George. Noticias de Galápagos 39: 20-23.

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (1996). The Galapagos tortoises: nomenclatural and survival status. Chelonian Research Foundation.

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (1997). Galapagos tortoise nomenclature: a reply. Chelonian Conservation and Biology (University of California) 2: 619.

Quinzin, Maud C. et al. (Accepted). Genetically informed captive breeding of hybrids of an extinct species of Galapagos tortoise. Conservation Biology. doi: [Abstract]

Russello MA, Poulakakis N, Gibbs JP, Tapia W, Benavides E, et al. (2010). DNA from the Past Informs Ex Situ Conservation for the Future: An “Extinct” Species of Galápagos Tortoise Identified in Captivity. PLoS ONE 5(1): e8683.

Quoy, J. R. C. and Gaimard, J. P. (1824a). "Description d'une nouvelle espèce de tortue et de trois espèces nouvelles de scinques" (in French). Bulletin des Sciences Naturelles et de Géologie (Paris) 1: 90-91.

Smith, G. T. Corley. (1977). The present status of the giant tortoise Geochelone elephantopus on the Galapagos Islands. International Zoo Yearbook 17(1): 109-112. [First page preview]

Steadman, David W. (1986). Holocene Vertebrate Fossils from Isla Floreana, Galapagos. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 413: 1-103, 25 figs., 4 pls., 12 tables.

Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. (1996). Chelonoidis nigra ssp. nigra. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. ( Downloaded on 21 July 2013.

Townsend, C. H. (1925). The Galapagos tortoises in their relation to the whaling industry: a study of old logbooks. Zoologica 4(3): 55-135.

Turtle Extinctions Working Group et al. (2015). Turtles and Tortoises of the World During the Rise and Global Spread of Humanity: First Checklist and Review of Extinct Pleistocene and Holocene Chelonians. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5: 1-66.

Peter Paul van Dijk, John B. Iverson, Anders G.J. Rhodin, H. Bradley Shaffer, and Roger Bour. (2014). Turtles of the World, 7th Edition: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution with Maps, and Conservation Status. 000.v7. Chelonian Research Monographs (ISSN 1088-7105) No. 5.

van Dijk, P.P., Rhodin, A.G.J., Cayot, L.J. & Caccone, A. 2017. Chelonoidis niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T9023A3149101. Downloaded on 23 June 2021.


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