Even though we currently live in the 21th century, there are still animal and plant species that scientists have not yet discovered. Some places on our planet are indeed difficult to access and have not yet been sufficiently explored. This is precisely the case for certain parts of the Galápagos Islands.
The archipelago became famous thanks to the observations that Charles Darwin, a British geologist and naturalist, made there on evolution. Recently, it was the site of the discovery of a new species of giant tortoise, a discovery confirmed by DNA tests, as indicated by the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment.
The researchers compared the genetic material of turtles currently living on San Cristobal Island with that of bones and shells collected in 1906. These remains had been found in a cave in the highlands of the island. The results showed that the genetic materials were different.
A new species of turtle
According to information, the explorers of the 20th century were never able to reach the lowlands lying in the northeast part of San Cristobal. It is in this part that the giant tortoises numbering 8000 currently live. According to the results of the analyses, these turtles thus belong to a different lineage from what was believed so far.
According to a post on Twitter made by the Ecuadorian ministry last Thursday, March 10, the giant tortoises of San Cristobal have so far been known to belong to the species Chelonoidis chathamensis. However, genetic tests have shown that they belong to another species.
In a newsletter, the Galapagos Conservancy said that C.chathamensis is probably almost extinct but it seems that the island was actually home to two different varieties of turtles, one living in the highlands and the other in the lowlands.
The Galapagos Islands
Located in the Pacific about 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a protected wildlife reserve. They are home to unique animal and plant species. Originally, 15 species of giant tortoises were discovered on the islands, but three of them disappeared centuries ago. In 2019, a specimen of Chelonoidis phantastica was discovered on Fernandina Island more than 100 years after the species was thought to be extinct.
Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Great Britain, Yale in the United States and the American NGO Galapagos Conservancy will continue their studies to determine if the turtles currently living in San Cristobal should have a new name.