September 29, 2022
In this paper we compare the genome of a female tortoise found in 2019 on Fernandina island with the only other tortoise ever found on this island more than 100 years ago, a male now residing in the collections of the California Academy of Science. When we sequenced the genomes of both individuals and compared them to the genomes of all the other Giant Galapagos tortoise species we found that the two were very similar, strongly suggesting that “Fernanda” belongs to the same species. This raises hopes to find additional alive individuals of this species on the island (a tough island to explore given the large amounts of lava flows that are almost everywhere). It also confirms that indeed there was a Giant Galapagos tortoise species on that island. lastly, it shows the importance of museum specimens as they can not only provide invaluable historical insights on current biodiversity but also they can offer evidence that can help preserve it.
The pics are courtesy of Galapagos Conservancy and Lucas Bustamante.
See the accompanying YaleNews article.