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How do bugs (and insects) get onto the skin of a giant tortoise?

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Why does the tortoise lift its neck high in the air and stretch its legs out of its shell?

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Why do ticks suck blood from tortoises and other animals?


Helping Each Other

Sometimes creatures have ways of helping each other. A good example is the way that giant tortoises on the Galapagos help birds to get food.

Some Galapagos birds eat bugs, such as ticks. Ticks and other bugs are often found on the necks and legs of giant tortoises.


When giant tortoises push through long grass and bushes, bugs and insects jump onto their skin.


Birds climb around on the tortoises looking for food.


When a tortoise feels a bird climbing around on its neck and legs, it stretches out its body.  The tortoise lifts its neck high in the air and stretches its legs out of its shell. This makes it easier for the birds to find ticks on the tortoise's skin.

The tortoise isn't just being kind when it helps a bird find ticks. Ticks suck blood from a tortoise's skin, and the tortoise wants to get rid of the ticks.

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While the tortoise is helping the bird, the bird is also helping the tortoise.  This is called symbiosis.

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