Tortoise thought to be extinct, is found now

A rare species of giant tortoise in Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago thought to be extinct more than 150 years have reappeared in small numbers, according to study published Monday in the United States.

This tortoise is a hybrid of a tortoise species native to Floreana Island some 200 miles away and thought to be extinct. Click to enlarge this image. Yale University

Written by Abdullah Al Abbadi/Blue Line News

U.S. researchers reached this conclusion after finding the DNA footprints of this turtle, known Chelonoidis elephantopus .

To our knowledge, this is the first time we rediscover a species of extinct animals by tracking its DNA left in the genomes of its hybrid offspring, says Ryan Garrick of Yale University (Connecticut, North East ), one of the authors of the study published in the American magazine Current Biology .

This discovery provides a new impetus to efforts to protect endangered turtles of the Galapagos Islands, said Ryan. The Galapagos tortoises are famous for having inspired the ideas of British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, in his visit in this region.

These turtles can weigh nearly 400 pounds, measuring more than 1.80 meters in length and live more than a 100 years. Today, many of the remaining thirteen species of Galapagos tortoises are considered at high risk of extinction.

Chelonoidis elephantopus Turtle, or C. elephantopus, were originally on Floreana Island and was believed to be, extinct shortly after the historic voyage of Darwin in the Galapagos in 1835.

The group of Yale researchers has found the earliest genetic traces of these turtles in the DNA of eleven turtles belonging to another species called C. becki living on Isabela Island, near an active volcano.

The transportation of turtles from one island to another by pirates or whalers was not uncommon in the 1800s, the researchers say.

Selected source for further read: Discovery News published 9-Jan-2012

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