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'Extinct' for 150 years, an iconic Galpagos giant tortoise species lives
Date:1/9/2012

t earlier finding inspired Garrick and his colleagues to take a closer look at what was happening on Isabela Island's Wolf Volcano, home to a large population of perhaps 7,000 tortoises, mostly C. becki. They've now sampled about 2,000 of those tortoises to find evidence that purebred C. elephantopus must live.

Comparisons of living tortoises and museum specimens indicate that the genomes of 84 of the newly sampled individuals can only be explained if one of their two parents were C. elephantopus. Those purebreds apparently exist at numbers so low that researchers would have to be incredibly lucky to sample one of them, Garrick says.

Even if purebred individuals of C. elephantopus are never found, their direct descendants could prove to be key in the giant tortoises' conservation. "Hybridization is considered largely deleterious to biodiversity conservation," Garrick says. "But in this case, hybrids may provide opportunities to resuscitate an 'extinct' species through intensive targeted breeding efforts."


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Contact: Lisa Lyons
elyons@cell.com
617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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