Recent research conducted by Yale University has re-discovered a species of Galápagos tortoise, previously thought to be extinct for 150 years.
The study, published earlier this week in the journal Current Biology, uncovered direct descendants of at least 38 purebred individuals of Chelonoidis elephantopus living on the volcanic slopes of the northern shore of Isabela Island — 200 miles from their ancestral home of Floreana Island. The tortoises disappeared from the island over a century ago as a result of vigorous hunting by whalers and workers at a heating oil factory that had been established there.
“This is not just an academic exercise,”says Gisella Caccone, senior research scientist of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University and senior author of the paper. “If we can find these individuals, we can restore them to their island of origin. This is important as these animals are keystone species playing a crucial role in maintaining the ecological integrity of the island communities.”
The unique shell shapes of tortoises living in the Galápagos Islands were one of the factors that inspired Charles Darwin to form his theory of natural selection during a visit to the area in 1835.
To confirm that the dome-shelled tortoises were in fact the missing species from Floreana, a team of Yale researchers visiting Volcano Wolf on the northern tip of Isabela Island in 2008 took blood samples from more than 1600 tortoises and compared them to a genetic database of living and extinct tortoise species.
An analysis detected the genetic signatures of C. elephantopus in 84 Volcano Wolf tortoises, meaning one of their parents was a purebred member of the missing species. In 30 cases breeding had taken place within the last 15 years. Since the lifespan of tortoises can exceed 100 years, there is a high probability that many purebreds are still alive, note the researchers.
“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,” said former Yale postdoctoral researcher Ryan Garrick, now assistant professor at the University of Mississipi and first author of the paper.
A very sad video that was created to help raise awareness of how much care these beautiful animals need. A tortoise really is for life and not just for Christmas. In some respects it may even outlive you.
Please take a few minutes to watch this video and share it with your friends or fellow tortoise keepers. Once again a very sad video, however many of the tortoises and turtles in this video have gone on to lead better and healthier lives. Somewhat a success story, but through the lack of knowledge, research and poor information delivered by some pet shops these prehistoric creatures have been made to suffer.
This is a short video about tortoise tunnels and is recorded in Florida. It features Sir David Attenborough and is an extract from his Life In Cold Blood series. In this clip David Attenborough uses a remote controlled camera to follow a Gopher Tortoise into his tunnel and explores the wealth of other wild life that also makes use of a tortoise tunnel.
BBC wildlife show ‘Lonesome George and the Battle to Save Galapagos’ explores the issues that surround the co-existence of human and animal populations on the environmentally precious Galapagos islands and introduces the island’s special celebrity Lonesome George; the only pinter island giant tortoise in existence.
A tortoise the size of a grape is enjoying life in the slow lane after becoming the newest, and smallest, addition to a zoo.
Tortoise Vs Grape As Tiny Tim Comes Out of His Shell
Tiny Tim, an Egyptian tortoise, tipped the scales at just 6g when he hatched a month ago. Today he is just 5cm long, but is expected to grow to 500g over the next ten years.
The hatchling is part of a small litter of tortoises who were saved from the illegal pet trade after being seized by HM Customs and Excise last year.
Tiny Tim and his five pocket-sized siblings have found a home at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, where they can be seen taking slow jaunts around their specially designed miniature home.
Zoo keeper Trevor Moxey, who looks after them at the zoo’s Discovery Centre, said: “Tim is one of our smallest, new additions this spring at Whipsnade. We’re very glad to offer him a safe home and he can stay here for the foreseeable future.
‘He is part of an important breeding programme.’
The tortoise breeding programme is part of a Europe-wide initiative to help increase the numbers of the critically endangered Egyptian tortoises.