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26 Nov 2012: Giant Galapagos Tortoise
May Not Be Extinct After All, Tests Reveal

The death of an iconic, century-old giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands earlier this year may not have meant the end of his species, an upcoming study suggests. In an analysis of more than 1,600 DNA
Giant tortoise Lonesome George
Galapagos National Park
‘Lonesome George’
samples, scientists from Galapagos National Park (GNP) and Yale University determined that at least 17 tortoises found on a volcano on Isabella Island have similar genetic traits to a tortoise known as “Lonesome George,” a Pinta Island giant tortoise discovered in 1972 and thought to be the last surviving member of his species, Chelonoidis abingdonii, until his death in June. According to the GNP website, the discovery suggests the possible existence of additional hybrid tortoises — or even “possibly-pure Pinta” giant tortoises — in the Galapagos. Scientists estimate that more than 300,000 giant tortoises may have lived on the islands, located more than 600 miles off the Ecuador coast, before whalers and pirates decimated populations in the 18th and 19th centuries. The results of the study will be published in the journal Biological Conservation.

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