Genetics may bring back Darwin’s Galapagos tortoises

September 26th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 26 (IANS) An extinct giant tortoise in the Galapagos islands, referred to by Charles Darwin in his pathbreaking work on evolution, may make a comeback with the help of genetics, thanks to the efforts of a team of international scientists.The researchers studied the genetics of Galapagos tortoises using samples from living animals and museum specimens. They found that a species on Volcano Wolf on the island of Isabela, part of the Galapagos group in the Pacific, contains the DNA of an extinct one from another island, Floreana.

The team’s findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If more of these mixed individuals are found, a captive breeding programme could restore the species G. elephantosis back to life, according to a statement from Australia’s Macquarie University.

G. elephantosis, the Floreana species, is one of four giant tortoise species that have disappeared over the past 150 years. Even Darwin, who visited Floreana in 1835, observed the shrinking number of tortoises from that island.

Fifteen years later, the species had vanished from Floreana. Macquarie University’s Luciano Beheregaray, who is currently on sabbatical in Canada, said an expedition to Volcano Wolf is planned for December 2008.

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