A giant turtle found in the Galapagos Islands is related to a species that scientists feared had become extinct a century back. An expedition in 2019 to Fernandina Island found a female tortoise.
Scientists compared samples of the giant turtle to a male from the species named Chelonoidis phantasticus, which was last sighted back in 1906.
Genetic scientists from Yale University compared the DNA with the specimen that was sighted by scientists of the California Academy of Sciences and kept in a museum. They identified it as the Chelanoidis phantasticus species.
Giant tortoises are critical to #rewilding the Galápagos. Fern pictured below is the only-known Fernandina Giant Tortoise – giving us hope for the rediscovery of the remaining lost species on @rewild‘s list.
Photo: Lucas Bustamante pic.twitter.com/VBPTfBi920
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) May 27, 2021
The Fernandina Giant Turtle
The giant turtle is typical of Fernandina Island and is named after it. It is one among the 15 odd species of giant turtles that are native to the Galapagos archipelago. The Chelonoidis species in the Santa Fe island and the Pinta Island’s Abingdonii species have become extinct.
The director of the Galapagos National Park, Mr. Danny Rueda was hopeful that this discovery will lead to the recovery of this species and not meet the fate of another giant turtle, Lonesome George, which was a giant turtle of the Chelonoidis Abingdon species and the last know individual of the species.
🚨 BREAKING: The female Giant Tortoise found on Fernandina in 2019 during an expedition of Galapagos Conservancy and @parquegalapagos has been confirmed as a Fernandina Giant Tortoise, a species believed to be extinct for more than 100 years! Read more at https://t.co/tsXuZluVGy. https://t.co/VMDu7vRdYP
— Galápagos Conservancy (@savegalapagos) May 25, 2021
The giant turtle died in 2012 and repeated attempts at breeding failed that led to the extinction of that species. He remains an emblem of the Galapagos archipelago, located 1,000 kilometers off the Ecuadorian coast. His taxidermied remains are currently on display inside a dedicated building in the Galapagos National Park headquarters in Santa Cruz.
The Galapagos Island was the root for Charles Darwin’s 19th-century evolutionary theory of species. Other than the numerous varieties of giant turtles, the island is home to cormorants, albatrosses, boobies, and flamingoes. It is also the home of extensively rare flora and fauna, many on the verge of extinction.
There are around 60,000 giant turtles of various species on the island chain according to the Galapagos National Park.
Mr, Rueda said that an expedition will be undertaken to Fernandina Island to search for members of the giant turtle species.