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Unknown Species of Giant Tortoise Discovered in Galapagos

Galapagos Conservancy stated that C. chathamensis species is "probably certainly extinct" and that the island had previously been home to two separate tortoise species, one in the mountains and the other in the lowlands.

Shivam Dwivedi
Giant Tortoise in Galapagos
Giant Tortoise in Galapagos

According to Ecuador's environment ministry, a new species of giant tortoise has been identified in the Galapagos Islands after DNA testing revealed that creatures living on one island had not yet been recorded. The genetic material of tortoises currently living on San Cristobal was compared to bones and shells recovered in 1906 from a cave in the island's mountains, and the researchers discovered that they were not the same.

The lowlands northeast of the island, where the animals live today, were never explored by 20th-century explorers, and as a result, over 8,000 tortoises belong to a different lineage than previously thought.

"The San Cristobal Island giant tortoise species, previously known technically as Chelonoidis chathamensis, genetically matches a different species," the ministry announced on Twitter on Thursday.

Galapagos Conservancy stated that C. chathamensis species is "probably certainly extinct" and that the island had previously been home to two separate tortoise species, one in the mountains and the other in the lowlands.

The Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific around 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, are a protected wildlife region with distinctive flora and fauna.

Charles Darwin, a British geologist and naturalist, made his discoveries on evolution on the archipelago, which made him renowned.

According to the Galapagos National Park, there were originally 15 species of giant tortoise on the islands, three of which fell extinct millennia ago.

More than 100 years after the species was thought to be extinct, a specimen of Chelonoidis phantastica was discovered on Fernandina Island in 2019.

The study was published in the scientific journal Heredity by academics from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, Yale University in the United States, the American NGO Galapagos Conservancy, and other institutions. They'll keep collecting DNA from bones and shells to see if the tortoises on San Cristobal, which stretches for 557 kilometres, should be given a new name.

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