Galápagos giant tortoise, ‘extinct’ for 100 years, found living alone on volcanic island

After the discovery of a giant tortoise on the Galápagos Islands in 2019, experts continued their research and proved that this species, which was thought to be extinct, still lives on a volcanic island.

Remember: last year, you were told of the existence of a giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands. Discovered by a team of researchers in 2019, this turtle lived on a small volcanic island called Fernandina. Scientists immediately assumed that this turtle belonged to a species that was thought to have been extinct for more than 100 years. After this discovery, they decided to carry out other expeditions on the island, to try to find new turtles belonging to this endangered species.

Today, we know a little more about the giant tortoises that live on the Galápagos Islands , thanks to a study published by a group of researchers in the journal Communications Biology. In this text, the scientists have taken up all the known information on this species of turtle.

The turtle that was discovered in 2019 was named Fernanda, since it was located on the volcanic island of Fernandina. For the moment, she is the only turtle that we know of that still lives on this island.

“We saw, honestly to my surprise, that Fernanda was very similar to the one they found on this island over 100 years ago, and both were very different from all the turtles on the other islands,” said explained Stephen Gaughran, co-author of the article.

To get more information about this tortoise, experts conducted DNA analysis to find out if the century-old tortoise species still survives in Fernandina. Today, experts cannot say with certainty that the tortoise discovered a few years ago belongs to the endemic giant tortoise of the Galápagos Islands. Indeed, these turtles are recognizable thanks to their unusual morphology, because they have a very prominent shell and large scales, which form a kind of saddle.

The turtle discovered in 2019 is smaller, at least 50 years old and is stunted. Because of this last point, the researchers are not able to say with certainty that this turtle would belong to the species sought.

Hope for Galápagos tortoises
During the new expeditions carried out by the researchers on the island of Fernandina, they spotted new tracks which would belong to 2 or 3 other turtles.

“Whether or not Fernanda is the end of her species, she represents an exciting discovery that engenders hope that even species long unseen may still survive. The future of the Fernandina tortoise species depends on the results of further research on this remote and difficult-to-explore island, which could lead to the discovery of even more Fernandina tortoises,” the researchers said in the study.

This discovery is a hope for scientists, who hope to find new turtles on the island. These reptiles are threatened because of their habitat, as the island of Fernandina has a volcano that is still active.

Today, the Fernanda tortoise is at the Galápagos National Park Tortoise Center, a rescue and breeding center where animal experts go to great lengths to keep his species alive.

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