The tortoise Chelonoidis phantasticu was found only once before – in 1906 when one male was found. Since then, it has become a mystery to experts whether or not the species has survived.
But American researchers now confirm that a female suddenly found in 2019 in Galápagosön Fernandina belongs to the species. This was also indicated by genetic analyzes last year. But because the female lacks some of the distinguishing features that were present in the male, the researchers weren’t sure in advance of their condition. Some even suspected that it was a domestic Fernandina tortoise.
To get to the heart of the matter, the researchers mapped the complete genomes of both a female and a male from 1906 – whose survival is preserved in museums. It turns out that the two are closely related and also genetically different from the other 13 known species of Galapagos tortoises, according to findings published in the scientific journal. Communication biology.
– I was surprised and as soon as I sank inside, I was really excited, says the researcher who conducted the analysis, Stephen Gaughran of Princeton University in the US, according to New Scientist magazine.
The unique female, estimated to be around 50 years old, was named Fernanda and now lives in a turtle center in the Galapagos Islands.
Recently, traces of the feces of more turtles were found during expeditions in Fernandina, raising hopes that more individuals of the rare species will be found. And if a male is found, the researchers hope it will be possible to breed the species far from extinction.
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