Caccone thinks that the male now housed in the California museum is probably a true representative of the original species. But to solve this new puzzle, she said, more tortoises from Fernandina need to be found.
Evolutionary biologists will work on these and other questions in coming years.
“These tortoises are the largest cold-blooded terrestrial herbivore on Earth and have a very important ecological role,” Caccone said. “So protecting them is important not only because of their iconic status but also because they are an important agent of ecosystem stability in the Galapagos.
“There is still a lot we don’t know, and what we learn will provide guidance to help protect them and with them the fragile and unique place on Earth they call home.”
Evelyn L. Jensen et al, The Galapagos giant tortoise Chelonoidis phantasticus is not extinct, Communications Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-03483-w
Discovery of lonely tortoise doubles known members of ‘phantasticus’ species (2022, July 19)
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