SCIENCE: Researchers discover a species of giant tortoise unknown to science in the Galapagos.

A new species of giant tor­toise has been dis­cov­ered in the Gala­pa­gos after DNA tests revealed ani­mals liv­ing on an island had yet to be reg­is­tered, Ecuador’s envi­ron­ment min­istry said.

Researchers com­pared genet­ic mate­r­i­al from tur­tles cur­rent­ly liv­ing in San Cristo­bal with bones and shells col­lect­ed in 1906 from a cave in the island’s high­lands and found them to be different.

20th-cen­tu­ry explor­ers nev­er reached the low­lands in the north­east of the island, where the ani­mals live today, and as a result, near­ly 8,000 tur­tles match a dif­fer­ent lin­eage than is com­mon­ly believed. thought before.

“The species of giant tor­toise that inhab­its San Cristo­bal Island, known until now sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly as Che­lonoidis chathamen­sis, genet­i­cal­ly match­es a dif­fer­ent species,” the min­istry said on Twit­ter on Thursday.

Gala­pa­gos Con­ser­van­cy said in a newslet­ter that the species C. chathamen­sis is “almost cer­tain­ly extinct” and that the island had in fact been home to two dif­fer­ent vari­eties of tor­toise, one liv­ing in the high­lands and the oth­er in the lowlands.

Locat­ed in the Pacif­ic about 1,000 kilo­me­ters (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the Galá­pa­gos Islands are a pro­tect­ed wildlife area and are home to unique species of flo­ra and fauna.

The arch­i­pel­ago was made famous by British geol­o­gist and nat­u­ral­ist Charles Dar­win’s obser­va­tions on evo­lu­tion.
There were orig­i­nal­ly 15 species of giant tor­toise on the islands, three of which became extinct cen­turies ago, accord­ing to the Gala­pa­gos Nation­al Park.

In 2019, a spec­i­men of Che­lonoidis phan­tas­ti­ca was found on Fer­nan­d­i­na Island over 100 years after the species was con­sid­ered extinct.

The study by researchers from New­cas­tle Uni­ver­si­ty in Britain, Yale in the Unit­ed States, the Amer­i­can NGO Gala­pa­gos Con­ser­van­cy and oth­er insti­tu­tions was pub­lished in the sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal Heredity.

They will con­tin­ue to recov­er more DNA from bones and shells to deter­mine if the tur­tles liv­ing in San Cristo­bal, which spans 557 kilo­me­ters, should be giv­en a new name.

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