|Harriet, photgraphed with her loving crocodile-hunting|
overseer on the occasion of her 175th birthday
To all our Australian-turtle-loving evolutionary-biologist readers, I would like to express condolences on behalf of all of us here at PopSci on this grim day: Harriet, the giant Galápagos tortoise supposedly captured by Charles Darwin’s famous expedition that you have grown to love like your own son or daughter, died today at home in the Australia Zoo at the spry (estimated) age of 176, ending her reign as the Earth’s oldest known living animal.
It’s been a wild ride, Harriet. You were plucked from your luscious home in the Galápagos Islands to be studied by one of the greatest minds of modern science (well, maybe—Harriet belonged to a species indigenous to an island Mr. Darwin never personally visited. Mercifully, Harriet died still believing she was Charles’s best girl). You’ve seen world wars come and go like mere hiccups of time. You recovered nicely from the psychological trauma of being mistaken for a male tortoise (Harry) for more than half your life. Your biggest daily concerns included which type of exotic and delicious flowers to dine on. And in your golden years you were owned by Steve Irwin, TV’s “crocodile hunter,” whose despair we can’t even begin to fathom.
Unsurprisingly, her keepers attribute her advanced age to a “stress-free life.” It’s indeed been a good one, Harriet, and we’ll miss you. But hopefully, somewhere in that great archipelago in the sky, Mr. Darwin can’t wait to take precise measurements of your dinner-table-size shell. —John Mahoney