They are one of Ecuador’s greatest attractions, the Galapagos Tortoises. Scientist have found descendants of a species of the giant tourists that were once belived to be extinct for the last 150 years.
Yale scientists say that there are 38 purebred tortoises still living on the islands, and 84 individual tortoises whose genes are from a member of the extinct species, C. elephantopus. This means that if children of C. elephantopus are still alive, their parents may be also, as it is common for the giant tortoises to live over 100 years old.
Thirty of the turtle descendants were younger than 15 years old, and since giant tortoises often live over 100 years, this data suggests some parents are still alive. Carefully breeding the hybrids may also allow scientists to revive the C. elephantopus species even if the purebreds cannot be found, Caccone added.
The study claimed to be the first to rediscover a supposedly extinct species by analyzing the DNA of its offspring, though Caccone said in an interview with the News that her team simply applied standard analytical techniques.
The islands are famous for the exploration of Charles Darwin in 1835, who discovered fifteen species of the giant tortoises, of which only eleven remain today.
The tortoises play an important role in the eco system, as they are the the only grazing herbivore native to the Galapagos. When their numbers started to decline, there was an increase in invasive plants and overgrowth. Some species became close to extinction because of hunters and whalers in the 19th century. In the past, sailers even brought the giant tortoises on ship to cut the throat of the tortoises because it acted as a water reserve.