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1750 Galapagos Tortoise Saddle likeness

1750 Galapagos Tortoise Saddle likeness

C028/9837

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

It is said that the Galapagos islands were named after the tortoises which the Spaniards called Galapago. The name Galapago has been wrongly (it seems) said to itself derive from the style of their saddles, which reminded them of the tortoise. More recent research however suggests that Galapago is actually an old spanish word for tortoise - and the spanish saddle was named after them! These illustrations from an 18th century equestrian book, do show how some of the tortoises (particularly the drought adapted species with upturned shells from Espanola) do bear more than a passing resemblance to a spanish leather saddle. It was a fact which Darwin remarked on in his 1845 edition of his Journal of Researches when he recalled that an American captain described the Hood (Espanola) Island tortoises " … as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle.".

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