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January 31, 2009
The longest living vertebrate in the animal kingdom is the Giant Tortoise, with the record age being 152 years. Weighing up to 919 lbs. (417 kg), they are also the largest living species of tortoise. Found in only two places in the entire world, the Galapagos Islands and Aldabra, these ectothermic animals cannot efficiently produce body heat and must spend several hours basking in the sun before moving. They primarily graze on vegetation, including flowers, cactus fruits and grasses. Their habitat depends on the season; during the dry season, they prefer higher slopes, while after the rainy season, they come down to flats covered in new grass. During mating season, males become territorial. Individuals stretch out their necks and stand tall. The taller tortoise is usually the more dominant one. Females lay between 2 to 16 eggs in a sandy nest, dug into the ground. The eggs incubate for 4.5 months before hatching.