Tuesday, November 18, 2008

turtle sex

You may have missed the news about Lonesome George. So I, as your turtle blogger, will keep you up to snuff.

Back in the '70's some people went out hunting for wild goats on Pinta Island off the coast of South America. They found a very old tortoise instead. He was taken to the Galapagos National Park where much fuss was taken over his care. After so many years living alone, apparently without even the wild goats for company anymore, he was not the happiest of tortoises in this new environment, but as they all do, he adapted. But, the big guy was the last of his kind and other people wanted children and grandchildren. So the dating life began. He was put on a diet, given training in manners, and several female playmates. George was not particularly interested in playing. He was given a male playmate. No interest there, either. Well, no one actually ever saw anything, so maybe?.... Two other tortoises who were found to be distant cousins were brought in to share his space. Maybe he just wanted some family, someone he could relate to on a basic, primal level, the people thought. For 36 long years, the people waited and watched and hoped for a little action.

Now, George has been estimated to be somewhere between 60-90 years old. That means that perhaps for more than half his life he has lived alone, with his thoughts and his own dreams. So when this dating thing happened, well, turtles have a lot of time on their hands. One thing they know is patience. He's had a lot of time to think things through. Sure, he has his unique genes (so he's been told, he's never seen them) but what else could he offer any offspring? What was the point of it all, he probably asked himself, many times. He had his house, but none of his kids would want to be burdened with that, they would all have their own houses to take care of. He hadn't any particular interests or talents to pass on. It probably seemed to be way too much to bother with. And he'd never get to be all alone again, which he infinitely preferred. Not everyone who lives alone is lonely.

But then it seems he thought again. Perhaps to utterly shock all those annoying, gawking people, or to give the tabloids some fresh fodder. Or maybe he is just a joker afterall. For suddenly, one of the gawkers found some eggs in a nest and then a little later found more eggs in another nest. Twice! Excitement. Congratulations. New introduction cards were being made up: Papa George.

Then, nothing.

Turtles are known for laying infertile eggs. They don't need a male to help with that, either.

I know this. I have my own turtle with gender issues. Otis was a happy boy and was thoroughly shocked when he suddenly started laying eggs. To suddenly discover that one could do this, all by oneself, shook him to the core. He couldn't deal with the thought that now he'd have to wear a bow and false eyelashes a la Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck to distinguished [herself] from the other boy turtles.

No, he was so shocked, he quickly ate the evidence and hoped it would never happen again.

Perhaps, Lonesome George is chuckling to himself.
Who says he's lonely?


  1. What a terrific story. Poor George, it must be very confusing to be an old turtle and a Einzelgänger at that. I can sort of identify with George. Except that I definitely have no eggs to lay.

  2. poor George, he probably just wants to be left alone. I love the story tho' thank you for keeping us up to speed with turtle news.


    ps still waiting for a pic of Otis.

  3. Why can't the just let George alone to be his mistanthropic (well, that might not be the right word for a turtle) self.

    As for Otis. Whoa! Poor dude!

  4. Can't all animals that lay eggs lay infertile eggs? Even humans lay infertile eggs regularly. Nevertheless you're a fountain of turtle-related information

  5. I was just talking this weekend about how much I want to go to the Galapagos.

  6. I don't think he's lonely..I think he's a contented bachelor & is thinking "screw all those scientists.. leave me in peace"

  7. butterfly: for everyone, I looked up einzelganger and apart from meaning loner, or lone wolf, it seems George is also a MAVERICK!!!

    MA: Otis will appear tomorrow

  8. Jazz: scientists can't leave anything alone

    XUP: there was no update as to whether the scientists ate the eggs, and yeah, I guess they can all lay infertile, there was just so much hope for for George's species and interest in his lack of interest.

  9. CoW: it would be an amazing visit

    msw: exactly

  10. What a totally fascinating story!


Glad you stopped by. For anyone who stumbled here, don't be shy to say 'hi' and let me know you've visited!