A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that giant tortoises are the most likely species of large land animal to erupt during a cyclone in the tropics, with more than 70 percent of the species in that area reporting some form of eruption in 2016.
The agency says that a major cyclone will typically cause the largest mass extinction event of any land animal, with about one-third of the world’s population being wiped out in a single storm.
However, it also found that the most common type of large tortoise, the brown and white tortoise (Lophophora bicolor), is still alive in the wild and is being recorded as the most vulnerable species.
The species is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“This is the most extensive study we have done on giant tortois,” said Dr. Thomas Schumacher, the principal investigator of the study and a scientist at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
“These tortoias are known for their extreme endurance and their adaptability to the extremes of climate,” he said.
“They are very hardy animals and we really need to make sure they’re in good condition when they’re released into the wild.”
The giant tortouas are considered a major threat to native populations because they are considered more vulnerable to severe storms and flooding.
Schumachers team collected the records from tortois in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, as well as the Philippines and Guam, which have the highest number of tortoices in the world.
The report said the largest species of tortoise in Costa Rico is the yellow tortoise.
The red tortoise accounts for about 13 percent of all species, but only a tiny fraction of the country’s total population.
“The majority of tortos in Costa Rican tortoia have the yellow coloration, but they also have the red coloration,” said Schumakers team.
“Tortoias in Nicaragua are more of a mixed group,” he added.
“It’s not just one species of species, it’s multiple species of animals that are all red and yellow.”
Tortoise habitat in Costa Ricans is mostly in the mountains.
The researchers also counted the largest tortoise populations in Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Guam.
The scientists say they’re not certain if the new data will help the conservation of giant turtles, but it does represent a significant step in understanding the species’ status.
“We don’t know what to expect in the future, but the next few years are going to be really interesting,” said Shumacher.
The National Marine Conservation Association (NMCA) and the Center for Biological Diversity also released a statement on the new study, calling it a landmark study that should spur more research on the topic.
“Our species is being affected by climate change, which means that the only way to save them is to get them to live longer,” said Nicole Ahern, senior conservation director at NMCA.
“The findings of this study show that tortoans can live past 40 years in the sea.
We need to get this information out to more people so we can start protecting these creatures for generations to come.”
The NOAA report says that the number of giant and yellow tortoas has increased by more than 300 percent since the late 1970s, and that the populations of brown and black tortoits are declining, too.