Good news from the Galápagos Islands! Conservationists have confirmed that a giant tortoise found on the archipelago belongs to a species scientists thought went extinct more than 100 years ago.
The female tortoise was discovered during a 2019 expedition to Fernandina Island. To prove the link, scientists took samples from the female to compare to the remnants of a male from the species Chelonoidis phantasticus.
The last sighting of the species was in 1906 when a team of scientists from the California Academy of Sciences was surveying the islands’ flora and fauna. They took back the reptile to the academy’s herpetology department, and it was samples of that male specimen that enabled geneticists to determine 115 years later that the female found in 2019 is indeed Chelonoidis phantasticus, also known as the Fernandina giant tortoise.
Conservationists have found more traces of the species on Fernandina Island, indicating that there are more individuals left in the wild. The female, which is estimated to be more than 100 years old is currently at a breeding center on Santa Cruz Island.