The researchers confirmed that the female turtle found on an expedition to the Galapagos Archipelago in 2019 belongs to the species Chelonoidis phantasticus.
“We thought it became extinct for more than 100 years, but now we have confirmed its existence,” Ecuadorian Environment Minister Gustavo Marek said of the tortoise.
Turtle numbers have decreased since the nineteenth century
The fact that it really is a specimen of Chelonoidis phantasticus has only been fully proven thanks to research from Yale University. The researchers compared the DNA of a tortoise living in the Galapagos Islands with samples from another specimen of this type of turtle from 1906, found in the collections of the California Academy of Sciences.
The species Chelonoidis phantasticus lived on Fernandina Island, and is permanently uninhabited. It was one of the 15 species of giant turtle in the Galapagos Islands. The number of giant turtles in the archipelago decreased sharply in the nineteenth century due to hunting. There are two species that are considered extinct today.
It is around 80 to 100 years old
The female, which researchers found two years ago, is now in a giant turtle protection center. According to the nurses, it is doing well. They named it Fernando, according to which island its species is found. Uncertainty only exists about her age.
According to Danny Rueda, Galapagos National Park director, you could be between 80 and 100 years old. “It weighs 30 kilograms.”
Rueda also mentioned that the park is preparing for a major reconnaissance mission for Fernandina Island for the second half of this year. Its goal will be to discover other turtles of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus.
Conservationists fear Fernando will face the same fate as the George tortoise in 2012. George was the last known specimen of Chelonoidis abingdon. And because he refused to mate with other turtles, his genus became completely extinct.
“It is now one of the most important findings our national park has ever reached. It is a dream, it is a hope for a new species of turtle in the Galapagos Islands. We have restored a new species that has been recorded as extinct and this gives us the energy to continue all the programs for the conservation and restoration of turtles.” . “
The Galapagos Islands, located 900 kilometers west of Ecuador, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique fauna and flora.
The archipelago, which crisscrosses the equator, consists of about 20 largest and hundreds of smaller islands of volcanic origin. Only five of them are permanently inhabited. They were discovered in the sixteenth century.
In 1835, British naturalist Charles Darwin spent six weeks observing animals on the islands. Apparently, based on the results of these observations, he created his basic concept of natural origin and the evolution of types of developments, the main driving force of which is natural selection.
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