‘Extinct’ turtle found alone on remote volcanic island

(ORDO NEWS) — The supposedly extinct Galapagos giant tortoise was found alive in 2019. New DNA analysis has confirmed that the female is indeed a member of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species, the only specimen of which was seen over 100 years ago.

This turtle is the second representative of the species discovered by scientists. The first was found over 100 years ago

Biologists discovered a turtle named Fernanda on Fernandina Island in 2019. On the same island in 1906 a lone male was found – the first and until recently the only representative of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus.

The unexpected discovery, described in the journal Communications Biology , doubled the number of known members of Chelonoidis phantasticus from one to two, but it also baffled evolutionary biologists because, while their genomes are very similar, the animals look very different. Fernanda’s carapace was comparatively small and smooth, while the male’s carapace was protruding and shaped like a saddle.

Volcanic remote island

The volcanic island of Fernandino is the most inaccessible of the Galapagos Islands. Previously, researchers assumed that Chelonoidis phantasticus became extinct due to volcanic activity: over the past 200 years, about 25 eruptions have occurred here.

Scientists have also found turtle excrement on the island, leading some to speculate that there are other surviving species there as well. The researchers are now hoping to find a live male Chelonoidis phantasticus to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

Fernanda the tortoise is about 50 years old – which means that she can live another 200 years. During this time, the researchers must find her a suitable pair (if any).


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