Cylindraspis is a genus of recently extinct giant tortoises. All of its species lived in the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion) in the Indian Ocean and all are now extinct due to hunting and introduction of non-native predators.
Modern mtDNA studies of bone remains has determined that the Cylindraspis species were all descended from one species that colonised Mauritius from Madagascar by sea, many millions of years ago. The population on Mauritius differentiated into both Saddle-backed and Domed species, and the ancestors of the Saddle-backed species (Cylindraspis inepta) then colonised Rodrigues (where they once again differentiated into both Saddle-backed and Domed species) and later Reunion, the most recently-formed island.
Human settlers colonised the Mascarenes in 1663. These giant tortoises were very large and slow, thus making them easy game. Like many island species they were also reported to have been friendly and unafraid of humans. Most species of this genus were already driven to extinction by 1795 and the last individuals were reputed to have died around 1840 (Arnold 1979, Bour 1980, Cheke and Hume 2008).
The genus contains at least the following species:
- †Cylindraspis indica, Réunion giant tortoise, also known by the synonym Cylindraspis borbonica, from Réunion
- †Cylindraspis inepta, Saddle-backed Mauritius giant tortoise, from Mauritius
- †Cylindraspis peltastes, Domed Rodrigues giant tortoise, from Rodrigues
- †Cylindraspis triserrata, Domed Mauritius giant tortoise, from Mauritius
- †Cylindraspis vosmaeri, Saddle-backed Rodrigues giant tortoise, from Rodrigues
- Arnold, E.N. 1979. Indian Ocean giant tortoises: their systematics and island adaptations. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON B BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 286 (1011): 127-145
- Austin, J.J., Arnold, E.N. (2001). Ancient mitochondrial DNA and morphology elucidate an extinct island radiation of Indian Ocean giant tortoises (Cylindraspis). Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Volume 268, Number 1485, Pages: 2515-2523.
- Bour, R. 1980. Systematique des tortues terrestres des iles Mascareignes: genre Cylindraspis Fitzinger, 1835 (Reptilia, Chelonii). BULLETIN DU MUSEUM NATIONAL D'HISTOIRE NATURELLE SECTION A ZOOLOGIE BIOLOGIE ET ECOLOGIE ANIMALES 2 (3): 895-904
- Bour, R. 1984. Les tortues terrestres geantes des iles de l'ocean Indien occidental. Studia Geologica Salamanticensia 1; 17-76
- Cheke, A., Hume, J. (2008). Lost Land of the Dodo, An Ecological History of Mauritius, Réunion & Rordrigues. T & AD Poyser, London.
- Gerlach, J. 2004. Giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean. The genus Dipsochelys inhabiting the Seychelles Islands and the extinct giants of Madagascar and the Mascarenes. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 208 pp.
- Gerlach, J. & Canning, K.L. 1997. Evolution and history of the giant tortoises of the Aldabra island group. Testudo 4(3); 33-40