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'Lonesome George' may not have been the last of his kind


Researchers believe there could be purebred Chelonoidis abingdoni alive in the wild
Researchers believe there could be purebred Chelonoidis abingdoni alive in the wild

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

November 17, 2012 — When George the giant tortoise passed away this summer, animal experts deemed his species extinct. Now, a study conducted by Yale University researchers has suggested otherwise.

Researchers at Yale sampled the DNA of 1600 tortoises in the Galapagos Island and found that 17 were related to Chelonoidis abingdoni, a species of which George was thought to be the last.

While the 17 tortoises are hybrids, researchers believe that some may have been the offspring of a purebred.

Five of the tortoises are young, suggesting that adult purebreds may still be living in the region.

“Our goal is to go back this spring to look for surviving individuals of this species and to collect hybrids,” said the study's senior author, Adalgisa “Gisella” Caccone.

“We hope that with a selective breeding program, we can reintroduce this tortoise species to its native home.”

The findings have been published in a recent issue of Biological Conservation.

[photo credit]

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