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The tortoise muse of Darwin passes away

by rik
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Charles Darwin is a man famous for his contribution to the theory of evolution. The time he spent in Galapagos in particular allowed him to write one of the most important books in the history of science, On the Origin of Species. In this book, Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection which theorized that all animals living today descended from common ancestors. The groundbreaking work is now widely accepted by the scientific world and is a foundation for all other scientific work. Darwin famously brought three tortoises back to Britain with him from the islands of the Galapagos. The last of these tortoises has three has now sadly passed away.

Harriet the tortoise passed away at the age of 176. She was born in one of the islands of the Galapagos almost two centuries ago. It was there that by studying tortoises, mockingbirds and foxes that Darwin discovered small differences between each breed based on the island they were on. He realized that each breed had evolved differently based on the needs it had. He then set sail for England to publish his groundbreaking findings which went on to shake the world. He did so taking three tortoises with him.

While it has not been proven, it is widely believed that Harriet was one of those tortoises. At the time, Harriet would have been five years old, about the size of a standard wall clock (she died weighing over 300 pounds). She then traveled to Australia where she spent the remainder of her life. She finally died of heart failure while in the Australia Zoo. 

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Harriet was likely the oldest living animal in the world at her time of passing. While an incredible achievement, she is not the oldest tortoise ever found. That award goes to a slightly less famous tortoise named Tui Malila. She was presented as a gift to the royal family of Tonga from Captain James Cook in the 1770s. She died in 1965 at the age of 188.

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