A giant tortoise thought to be extinct for the last 150 years has been revealed through its genome.
Researchers were looking at a close relative of the thought to be extinct Chelonoidis elephantopus and found evidence that the relative was actually a hybrid of the two species. Upon further investigation, they found that 84 tortoises showed evidence that their parents had mated with the Chelonoidis elephantopus. And one as recently as 15 years ago!
That means, the giant long lived creatures could still be slowly making their way around Isabela Island, the largest of the Galápagos Islands. It’s a bit shocking that no one has noticed them before now. They can grow to be 900 pounds and nearly 6 feet in length. Plus, due to the genetic differences between the offspring, researchers think there could be as many as 38 of them around the island.
Researcher Ryan Garrick said about the findings, “To our knowledge, this is the first report of the rediscovery of a species by way of tracking the genetic footprints left in the genomes of its hybrid offspring.These findings breathe new life into the conservation prospects for members of this flagship group.”
We hope to hear more good news about the Chelonoidis elephantopus! Nothing like starting the day with the thought of a magnificent creature like that still roaming the earth.