"It was horrifying and amazing at the same time," said Justin Gerlach of University of Cambridge, as he reported on the first documented evidence of a tortoise hunting, killing and eating a tern chick.
The video clip shows an adult female giant tortoise in the woodlands of the Frégate Island in the Seychelles archipelago walking slowly but purposely towards a tern chick stranded on a log. The chick tried to fight, but the tortoise managed to crush the bird's head, instantly killing it. Then, the tortoise proceeded to swallow the chick whole.
Gerlach noted that the attack seemed to be deliberate and planned. The tortoise approached the chick with its jaws open and tongue retracted, which is a typical aggressive behavior.
As the giant tortoise is thought to be vegetarian, the evidence of a hunting tortoise brought up new questions about what is causing this new type of behavior. "Could we be seeing a population of tortoises that is developing a new type of behavior with evolutionary implications, or is it just an interesting observation at the moment?" Gerlach added.
Video: Anna Zora