Described as “living rocks,” giant land tortoises are lumbering beasts with a reputation for being sluggish in both speed and brainpower. But new research carried out by scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) suggests we have greatly underestimated the intelligence of these creatures, who can not only be trained but also have amazing powers of long-term recall.
“When first discovered, giant land tortoises were viewed as stupid because explorers could simply collect and store them on ships as a supply of fresh meat,” said Dr. Tamar Gutnick, first author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar in the OIST Physics and Biology Unit.
But Gutnick pointed out that there had been contradictory reports that hinted at their intellect. Darwin himself noted that Galapagos tortoises traveled long distances between where they ate, drank, slept or mud-bathed, requiring a good memory.[…]