The natural regulation of Giant tortoise populations on Aldabra Atoll. Reproduction



A two-year reproduction study of three isolated populations of different densities of the Aldabra Giant tortoise (Geochelone gigantea Schweigger) showed dissimilarity in gonadal parameters; (i) as population density increased age at sexual maturity was delayed in males and females; (ii) although the mean number of mature follicles was similar in all populations, preovulatory follicular atresia was only found in the high density population; (iii) annual variation in preovulatory follicular atresia was dependent on rainfall and food availability; (iv) the number of clutches laid/♀/year decreased with increasing population density as did clutch size; in the high density population (and depending on rainfall) only 30–80% of the mature females bred. The discussion considered the importance of movement in determining survival/reproduction.