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Famous Galpagos tortoise, Lonesome George, may not be alone

New Haven, Conn. "Lonesome George," a giant Galapagos tortoise and conservation icon long thought to be the sole survivor of his species, may not be alone for much longer, according to a multinational team of researchers headed by investigators at Yale University.

New research led by biologists Adalgisa Caccone and Jeffrey Powell in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, with the strong support and cooperation of the Galpagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, has identified a tortoise that is clearly a first generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta. That means, this new tortoise has half his genes in common with Lonesome George.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records Lonesome George, a native of Pinta, an isolated northern island of the Galpagos, is the "rarest living creature." By the late 1960s, it was noted that the tortoise population on this island that is visited only occasionally by scientists and fishermen, had dwindled close to extinction, and in 1972, only this single male of the species Geochelone abingdoni was found.

Lonesome George was immediately brought into captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz where he is housed with two female tortoises from a species found on the neighboring island of Isabela.

"Even after 35 years, Lonesome George seems uninterested in passing on his unique genes and has failed to produce offspring," said lead author Michael Russello of the University of British Columbia Okanagan who began working with the tortoises as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. "The continuing saga surrounding the search for a mate has positioned Lonesome George as a potent conservatio
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Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
janet.emanuel@yale.edu
203-432-2157
Yale University
30-Apr-2007


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