Wild Fact #388 – The Comeback Kid – Chelonoidis elephantopus

Galapagos Tortoise

Photo from Yale University

This week it seems we are alternating between popular animals and ones that we just don’t know much about. Today’s animal is a type of Galapagos Tortoise that we had thought had been extinct for 150 years. Yes, the Chelonoidis elephantopus falls under the category of “we don’t know much about this animal”. That’s okay though since we are going to do our best to uncover a few facts about this amazing tortoise. Are you ready to take a quick trip to the Galapagos Islands, where it is believed that this once “extinct” animal is making the comeback of the century?

Extinct or Not Extinct? That is the Question

So how do you re-discover a lost species? Through genetic testing of course. That’s right, researchers were studying the genome of closely related species, Chelonoidis becki, when they started finding traces of a long lost generation. It was proven that these hybrids were a direct descendant from the “extinct” tortoise, which means either their mother or father shouldn’t technically exist anymore. Since these tortoises have been known to live up to 175 years, you may be thinking that this is no big deal and that the hybrid was born before their mother or father went extinct. This is a great theory but I forgot to give you one crucial piece of the story…..some of these hybrids were only 15 years old. Yep, this means that there is most likely a hidden population of┬áChelonoidis elephantopus living somewhere on the island.

Galapagos Tortoise

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An Amazing Hiding Spot

Finding these extinct species is now similar to an Easter egg hunt, which would be a lot of fun. It would be monumental for the species if humans were able to find a few specimens, since we would be able to begin a breeding program to help keep this Tortoise population alive. Although, if I were the┬áChelonoidis elephantopus, I would be a little weary of humans since their drastic population decline was a result of our hunting efforts. Maybe this is the perfect time to make things right and help this animal species do something that is almost impossible……comeback from extinction!

That does it for our trip to the amazing Galapagos Islands. I hope you enjoyed learning about the comeback tour of this “extinct” tortoise.

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