Extinct ‘magnificent giant tortoise’ found alive in the Galapagos Islands

Thought to have been extinct over a century ago, a rare species of giant tortoise is actually still alive.

Scientists have hypothesized that chelonoidis phantasticus died out more than a century ago. This species is known as the “magnificent giant tortoise” and is native to the island of Galápagos Fernandina.

The only known specimen was discovered in 1906.

But in 2019, Princeton researchers discovered a lone female turtle on the island that hinted that The species you may live on.

Last week, they finally proved that the two samples are related.

Who is Fernanda, the last known adorable giant tortoise?

Giant tortoises can weigh up to 417 kg and can grow up to 1.3 metres. They usually live between 80 and 120 years.

There are 14 different species of the Galapagos giant tortoise, and they all descend from a single ancestor—and they’re all listed in IUCN Red List either weak, endangered, critically endangered, or extinct.

In 2019, researchers on Fernandina Island discovered Fernanda, a lone female who had settled in an isolated vegetation patch.

After comparing Fernanda’s DNA to a specimen of a “magnificent giant tortoise” collected in 1906, the team confirmed that the pair were members of a same species.

Stephen Jugran of Princeton University, the researcher responsible for sequencing, said: genome.

“We saw – frankly, to my surprise – that Fernanda was very similar to the one they found on that island over 100 years ago, and both were very different from the other. carrot turtle. ”

Researchers estimate that Fernanda is about 50 years old.

What’s next for the magnificent giant tortoise?

Adalgisa Caccone, who helped conduct the research, said the new discovery gives researchers “hope.”

“Finding a living specimen gives hope and also opens new questions, as there are still many mysteries,” she added.

Are there more Fernandina tortoises that can be returned to captivity to start a breeding program? How Fernandina tortoises were colonized, and what evolutionary relationship To the other giant tortoises in the Galapagos? Caccone asks.

There is still hope for the existence of the magnificent giant tortoise – on expeditions to Fernandina Island, researchers discovered recent ruins and the remains of at least two or three other turtles.

Fernanda herself is now at the Turtle Center in the Galapagos National Park, a rescue and breeding facility, where experts see what they can do to keep her species alive.

“This information is important to keepsaid Peter Grant, Princeton Professor of Zoology and Galapagos expert.

“It motivates biologists to search more seriously for the last few individuals of the population to bring them back from the brink extinction. “

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