Galapagos Tortoise, What Is Lost Is Now Found

Galapagos Tortoise, What Is Lost Is Now Found

Open water swimmers enjoy the sight of turtles swimming leisurely below them. Gracefully paddling at a seemingly mellow pace, sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world’s oceans except the Arctic. They also are immune from the sting of the box jellyfish and regularly eat them.

But, sadly, all species of sea turtles are currently listed as threatened or endangered.

But there is hope. Surprising hope.

Through a genetic survey published in the journal Current Biology, researchers have found descendants of the previously thought extinct Galapagos Island tortoise. Previously thought extinct since 1850, the Galapagos tortoise on Isabela Island were found to have traces of the extinct tortoise DNA in their genomes.

The researchers believe that the tortoise had somehow swam their way to Isabela and have remained hidden from humans who have hunted and eaten the rest of their ancestors.

Geneticist Ryan Garrick of the University of Mississippi and his colleagues took blood samples of tortoises living on Wolf Volcano on Isbela island and found that 84 of the tortoise had one parent was a purebred C. elephantopus, a tortoise supposedly extinct for more than 150 years.

Scientists are now searching for the purebred C. elephantopus tortoises on Isabela. If found, a breeding program will be started to bring them back as the tortoises are very important for the island’s ecosystem.

In this one instance, it appears that what is lost is now found.

Photo by Claudio Ciofi of Yale University.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source