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The animals on the cover of Upgrading to PHP 5 are Galapagos tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus). These giant tortoises, native to the Galapagos Islands, are the largest in the world. They can weigh up to 500 pounds and measure up to 6 feet from head to tail. As their bulk suggests, they are slow-moving animals, with a top speed of 0.16 mph. Their plodding pace applies to more than just their gait-they can live for 200 years and take 20 to 25 years to reach full maturity. Baby tortoises spend a full month digging out of their sandy nests after they hatch.
Galapagos tortoises are herbivores, and their strong, curved mouths allow them to eat the spiny vegetation found on the more arid islands in the Galapagos chain. Their slow metabolism allows them to survive for long periods of time without food or water, which is necessary during the dry season. Their scaly feet help them navigate the islands’ rough lava terrain.
Fifteen subspecies of Geochelone elephantopus have been found in the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago located about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The different subspecies are identified primarily by their shell morphology: saddle-back and domed shells are the two general types, but there are intermediate variations. ...