'Darwin's tortoise' dies, age 176
Saturday, June 24, 2006; Posted: 1:42 a.m. EDT (05:42 GMT)
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A 176-year-old tortoise, believed by some to have been owned by Charles Darwin, has died in an Australian zoo.
The giant tortoise, known as Harriet, was long reputed to have been one of three tortoises taken from the Galapagos Islands by Darwin on his historic 1835 voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.
However, historical records, while suggestive, don't prove the claim, and some scientists have cast doubt on the story, with DNA tests confirming Harriet's age but showing she came from an island that Darwin never visited.
"She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family. She was a grand old lady."
Harriet was believed to be the world's oldest living tortoise, and one of its oldest living creatures. Despite her longevity, however, Harriet is not the world's oldest known tortoise.
That title was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records to Tui Malila, a Madagascar radiated tortoise that was presented to the royal family of Tonga by British explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770s. It died in 1965 at the ripe age of 188.
Scientist Paul Chambers cast doubt on Harriet's Darwin connection in an article in the New Scientist magazine and a book, "The Unexpected History of the Giant Tortoise."
Now, that would be a kickass shell to have once you polished it up a bit. It'd make a hugeass candy dish if nothing else. And look, the picture of the turtle has Steve Irwin in it. I hope that it's not dead because he took a dare to stick his entire head up its cloaca or something.
I'm not quite sure I get why it says the oldest living turtle was 188 years old. A few months ago, I remember seeing another article about a turtle that had kicked off at 255. Maybe there's some sort of behind the scenes power struggle to the title of world's oldest turtle or something. Anyway, here's the link to the other turtle death. Maybe someone should mail the guiness people and tell them to get it sorted out.