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Giant tortoise Lonesome George ‘wasn’t lonely after all’

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When Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise, died in June in the Galapagos, the world mourned the demise of a species. It appears, however, that George was not that lonely after all.

There are at least 17 tortoises on the Galapagos Islands that have similar genetic traits to George, including some that may be from his same genus, the Galapagos National Park said in a statement.

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George’s June 24 death “does not represent the end of the Chelonoidis abingdonii species of Pinta Island giant tortoises,” the statement said.

The Galapagos, located some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Ecuador’s coast, is an archipelago of 13 islands and more than 100 rocks and micro-islands. The islands were uninhabited when Europeans first visited in the 16th century, and today has a population of around 25,000.

Lonesome George, who was believed to be 100 years old when he died, was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when tortoises of his type were believed to be extinct.

Research conducted with Yale University experts “identified nine females, three males and five youths with genes of the Pinta Island giant tortoise species,” the statement read.

Researchers analyzed more than 1,600 DNA samples taken in 2008 from tortoises living on the Wolf Volcano, on Isabella Island, to George’s DNA and samples taken from the Pinta tortoise museum.

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The results means that there could be “additional hybrids on the Wolf Volcano, and even individuals on Pinta that could be pure,” the statement read.

Experts estimate there were once some 300,000 giant tortoises on the remote Pacific archipelago, but the species was decimated by whalers and pirates in the 18th and 19th century, who took them aboard their ships as fresh food and introduced new predators.

Today there are about between 30,000 and 40,000 tortoises of 10 different species on the Galapagos.

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The Pinta and Floreana island tortoise, and other hybrids, were probably taken to Isabella Island in the 18th century by sailors who threw them overboard when they no longer needed the animals as food, the statement read.

Park authorities have known since 2008 of the existence of hybrids with Pinta Island tortoise genes, but National Park biologist Washington Tapia said in June that he believed there were not enough to bring back Lonesome George’s species.

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A more complete report on the find will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Biological Conservation.

The Galapagos became famous when Charles Darwin visited in 1835 to conduct landmark research that led to his revolutionary theories on evolution.

The archipelago has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978 for the unique plant and animal life found both on its land and in the surrounding sea.

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In 2007, the organization declared the island chain’s environment endangered due to the increase in tourism and the introduction of invasive species.


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GOP will be ‘aided and abetted’ by Russian bots and trolls defending Trump: Former FBI counter-intel chief

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The former assistant director for counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Americans to "hunker down" because Russian intelligence will be repeating Republican talking points.

Frank Figliuzzi was interviewed Thursday by MSNBC's Brian Williams on "The Last Word."

"Frank, Fiona Hill -- who richly deserves it -- has been awarded front page status tomorrow morning on the front page of The New York Times, and I imagine newspapers and websites across this country," Williams noted.

"It was extraordinary today when she -- in effect, begged -- asked, certainly, members of the committee to stop supplying Russian talking points, to stop advancing Russian propaganda in the Congress of the United States," he continued.

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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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