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Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Found after 100 Years

Conservationists in the Galapagos Islands have discovered a huge tortoise from a species thought to have become extinct more than 100 years ago.

Abha Toppo
giant tortoise

Conservationists in the Galapagos Islands have discovered a huge tortoise from a species thought to have become extinct more than 100 years ago.

The mature female tortoise was discovered on the island of Fernandina in the western part of the Pacific archipelago. It is said to be a Fernandina Giant Tortoise, also called Chelonoidis phantasticus, a species last seen in 1906.

The tortoise that is around 100 years old was taken through a boat to the main Galapagos conservation center situated on Santa Cruz Island.

Galapagos Conservancy’s Washington Tapia said, the animal "go beyond 100 years" in age and is "a very old tortoise”.

Pic Credit - AFP

It is important to mention that the islands are well known for their unique and exceptional flora & fauna that has inspired life scientist, Charles Darwin to write his landmark 1859 study on evolution - The Origin of Species.

Marcelo Mata, Ecuador Environment Minister on Twitter announced the finding of a specimen "of the tortoise species known as Chelonoidis phantasticus that was supposed to have gone vanished 100 years before."

A statement by the ministry said conservationists were optimistic that other members of the species were present on the islet, judging by spores and tracks they found.

It further said genetic tests will be conducted to confirm that the tortoise was certainly a member of the long -lost species. 

It must be noted that the Chelonoidis phantasticus species is inhabitant of Fernandina, which is unoccupied, topped by an active volcano and also one of the youngest isles in the chain.   In addition, it is among the 15 known species of giant tortoises in the Galapagos, two of which have already vanished.

Researchers said any left-out Fernandina tortoises may be detached from each other by recent lave flows.

The Galapagos authorities in 2015 had announced the discovery of a new species of tortoise -Chelonoidis donfaustoi, which was named after Fausto Llerena, the park ranger who cared for Lonesome George, the iconic last tortoise of his Pinta species, who died in 2012. George had become an icon of the islands that is 1,000 km off the coast of South America.

Researchers tried to protect George's species by breeding him with females from a linked species, but unfortunately their eggs failed to produce. When he died, his body was stuffed and is presently exhibited at the Charles Darwin Research Center in the Galapagos.

It is believed that the giant tortoises arrived on the distant volcanic island chain about 3-4 million years back, borne by the ocean currents. They spread across the islands and split into various species without any natural predators.

Their numbers were smashed in the 18th and 19th centuries by seamen who took advantage of their capability to endure long duration without food and water to utilize them as easily stored fresh meat on Pacific journey. Their numbers were also hit by invasive species likes pigs, rats and dogs that eat their eggs while animals such as goats destroyed their home.

Researchers have found that the tortoises have genetic variants associated with DNA repair, with curative power that enables their prolonged existence.

Source - AFP

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