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Credit: Recep Bilek/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cowabunga! This century-old turtle’s no mutant, but might as well be after siring 800 babies

Contributed by
Jan 14, 2020

What the shell! A 100-year-old giant tortoise named Diego and from the Galapagos' Española Island is retiring from controlled baby-making after he helped saved his entire species from extinction by fathering 800 children, reports The New York Times. Nearly eight decades after he was taken from his native habitat, Diego will finally return home to Española Island in March.

[Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" intensifies.]

While Diego was one of several turtles participating in a breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz, he "displayed an exceptional sex drive," according to the article. He joined the program in 1976 after living at the San Diego Zoo for 30 years. With his coital help, the Tortoise Center amazingly increased its shelled population from 15 to 2,000. Forty percent of those offspring were sired by — you guessed it — Diego himself. If you can believe it, though, he wasn't even the most feisty member of the bunch.

“Another more reserved, less charismatic male" produced 60% of the kids, according to James P. Gibbs, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, per the Times. A third male had virtually no progeny.

Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Espanola Island, at a breeding center at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago. (Credit: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images)

“It clearly is the other quieter male that has had much more success,” said Gibbs, according to the article. “Maybe he prefers to mate more at night."

Now, we're not saying that Diego's a god (like Maturin, the turtle deity in the Stephen King literary mythos) or an aberration of nature (like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), but there's something special about this long-living reptile.

Of course, Diego won't be going celibate once he's back home in the Galapagos, but his 800 kiddos do mark the end of his breeding program days. To borrow a phrase from Austin Powers, he's got a lot of mojo, baby!


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