By doing this, the giant tortoises are somehow checking on the way the invasive plants are growing on the island, researchers say.
The Galapagos tortoises are on the endangered species list and conservationists are doing their best to protect these reptiles.
The invasive plants were brought to the island in the 1930s and since then, they have been spreading in a very fast pace.
The researchers conducted the study in Santa Cruz, where there is the largest population of tortoises in the Galapagos.
The new study shows that the Galapagos tortoises are feeding on these plants, which account for half of their daily diet, and it looks like the tortoises are enjoying the plants more than they did with their previous diet.
Stephen Blake, a scientist from the Washington University in St. Louis and the Fredy Cabrera of the Charles Darwin Foundation, explained that the managers of the Galapagos Islands are confronting with a big problem trying to protect the biodiversity of the island.
One of the major problems is to eradicate the plants that are invading the islands, but because there are so many species of these plants (more than 750), it’s almost impossible for the managers to control the situation.
Blake said that fortunately, the tortoises help controlling the invasive plants population by eating them.
The researchers found that Santa Crux tortoises are moving from their native low lands to the highlands searching for food. This discovery was rather surprising for the researchers, since they knew that sailors used to capture this animal and take it on their long voyages on sea and use it as food. They preferred this tortoise species because it could survive for almost a year without eating and drinking.
So the researchers had to find out why this tortoise prefers to migrate in order to find food, when it could very well survive for such a long time without it.
By studying the behavior of the Galapagos tortoises, the researcher discovered that the animals traveled in order to eat the invasive plants, rather than the usual plants that grow locally.
The scientists were actually surprised to discover this, especially since they previously considered that some of the invasive plant species were threatening the local wildlife and ecosystem.
The researchers detailed the findings of their new study in the journal Biotropica.
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