'Extinct' giant tortoise to be resurrected

Lonesome George the last surviving Pinta giant tortoise on Santa Cruz. He

He died on June 24, 2012.WIKIMEDIA, PUTNEYMARKGiant tortoises that once inhabited the Galapagos Island of Floreana may get another chance at existence, thanks to the efforts of researchers working to recreate a close genetic facsimile of the species by breeding together related species that contain traces of the extinct reptiles' DNA.

Scientists declared the Floreana tortoises (Chelonoidis elephantopus) extinct in the 1800s, a result of sailors of the era capturing and eating the animals on long ocean journeys back to Europe.

But a group of worldwide scientists, who collected 1,700 blood samples from tortoises on Isabel Island farther north during a research expedition in 2012, made a surprising discovery: 80 had genetic traces of the lost species.

A scientist with the Galapagos Conservancy told the Associated Press, "We are not going to have a ideal species ... but we will have a tortoise population with numerous same genes as the original".

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The breeding program will help "repopulate Floreana Island with tortoises which aren't exactly the same, but have very high genetic links to its native species", Washington Tapia, director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, told AFP.

Species with similar genetics have since been found on Isabela Island, where researchers from the National Park and Galapagos Conservancy analyzed 150 tortoises during expeditions in 2008 and 2015. Caccone said while in the past mariners crushed population numbers by using tortoises for food and oil, they unknowingly created an opportunity to save them. Isabel Island was typically the last stop before setting sail.

Scientists may resurrect an extinct species of giant tortoise from the Galápagos Islands. Subsequent DNA-based analyses showed these tortoises were descendants of species from Floreana and Pinta. "We are going to recover an extinct species", Granizo added.


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