Scientists have discovered a species of Galapagos tortoise that has not been seen in 115 years and which was considered extinct. DNA tests have confirmed that the 2019 specimen does indeed belong to the long-lost tortoise Giant Fernandina. This is stated on the website of the eco-organization Re: wild.
The Galapagos Islands are home to many species of giant tortoises, but some are more shy than others. The most elusive turtle was Fernandina, which for a long time was known only from one specimen, discovered in 1906. Expeditions to the island have found evidence of the creatures before: in 1964, suspicious tortoise droppings were discovered, and in 2009, a swimming tortoise was seen.
Finally, a live breathing turtle was discovered on the island in 2019. But this alone was not enough to confirm the species – whalers and sailors are known to have ferried these creatures between the Galapagos Islands in the past, so a specimen could belong to any of about a dozen species.
To find out for sure, the team ran a DNA test on this sample (it has since been called Fernanda, or just Fern), comparing it to a sample taken from the original Fernandina’s tortoise. The DNA coincidence confirmed that scientists have a long-lost species.
“Giant turtles have always been a source of surprise and awe at the same time. Now, thanks to Fernanda, they are again providing hope for the return of our planet’s lost and endangered species, and for the protection and restoration of biodiversity, ”says Don Church, President of Re: wild, one of the conservation organizations supporting the expedition.