Astonishment among scientists: herbivorous turtle is caught devouring a chick

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Slow and gentle, that may be the most widespread image of giant tortoises; however, a team of researchers filmed, for the first time, an unpublished sequence, in which one of these animals hunted a baby bird to death, and then ate it.

The story that publishes Current Biology It is the result of a study with the participation of the University of Cambrige and, although it is probably not the first time that a similar attack has occurred, it is the first on record and has been recorded on video.

The video was filmed in July last year in the forests of the island of Frégate (Seychelles). “I could not believe what I was seeing” era “Horrifying and surprising at the same time”said Justin Gerlach of the University of Cambridge and one of the authors of the research.

The video, taken by Anna Zora, the island’s deputy director of conservation and sustainability, offers some of the first definitive evidence of a deliberate and planned attack by a turtle.

The object of the deadly attack was a tern chick, possibly fallen from a tree and hoping to find the safety of a log on the ground, where it went to confront the voracious female tortoise of the species Aldabrachelys gigantea.

“He was looking directly at the tern and walking purposefully towards him. This was very, very strange, and – Gerlach emphasized – totally different from the normal behavior of turtles “.

For seven minutes, slowly but surely, the reptile approaches the young until it reaches a distance where it can extend its neck and try to bite it, although the tern does its best to defend itself by pecking at its enemy. Finally it crushes his head with its jaws.

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This behavior of the turtle It has raised multiple questions for researchers. It is not the first time that turtles have been known to eat meat or parts of animals rich in calcium, such as bones or shells.

However, until now, there was a question as to whether the turtle had killed the animal or had already found it dead.

In any case, it seemed to Gerlach that this turtle had already hunted successfully before, “Seemed to know what he was doing”.

It remains to be seen how many turtles hunt, how often, how much nutrition they get from it, and whether it happens elsewhere as well.

The authors do not rule out that they may have seen a population of turtles that is developing a new type of behavior with evolutionary implications.

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