Tortoise species thought to have been extinct for a century is alive and well


A giant Galapagos tortoise of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species was found in early 2019. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

DNA testing has confirmed that a tortoise found in the Galapagos Islands is from a species believed to have gone extinct over 100 years ago.

The Ecuadorian government announced that after running DNA tests on a female tortoise found on the Galapagos Island of Fernandina it has been confirmed that the specimen is a Chelonoidis phantasticus.

The Chelonoidis phantasticus has been considered extinct since 1906 when a group of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences captured and killed the last specimen ever documented.

Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park, said in a statement obtained by Real Press: ‘We have been able to confirm that the tortoise is Chelonoidis phantasticus. A species that we believed to have gone extinct over 100 years ago.’

He went on to explain that the elderly female tortoise was found two years ago on 17th February (2019) but up until today, it was not clear what species of tortoise she was.

Scientists at Yale University in the US compared samples taken from the tortoise with those taken from the male Chelonoidis phantasticus which was killed in 1906.

The two samples were found to be a match and the female tortoise was therefore confirmed as being a member of what was up until yesterday an extinct species.
Rueda added that the species was confirmed extinct in 1906 and this discovery gives the Galapagos Islands ‘great hope for the future of conservation programmes.’

He went on to say that during recent research missions excrement samples were gathered that researchers believe could have been left by other Chelonoidis phantasticus specimens.

Rueda says an expedition is now being planned for later on in the year when researchers will try to find more surviving Chelonoidis phantasticus specimens.
He is hopeful that if more specimens are found a breeding programme can be started, and the animal can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

Marcelo Mata Guerrero, Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, said in the statement: ‘The Galapagos Islands have the full support of the National Government to carry out the investigations that are considered necessary to guarantee the conservation and preservation of the species on the islands.’

DNA testing confirmed the tortoise species. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Galapagos Islands are located 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador in the pacific ocean but form a part of the country.

The islands are home to numerous unique species but the giant tortoises that roam the islands have become known all across the world.

The volcanic islands were made famous by Charles Darwin who studied the islands extensively. It was on the islands that Darwin developed many of his ideas relating to evolution based on the fauna and flora he studied on the archipelago that is made up of 18 main islands and 3 smaller islands.

Fernandina island is one of the most pristine and well preserved on the archipelago which is home not only to countless species of animal but also to an active volcano called ‘La Cumbre’.

The specimen, which is currently the only known living member of its species, has been transferred to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre in Santa Cruz from Fernandina, where it’s being kept safe in an enclosure designed especially for Galapagos tortoises.


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