The story of Lonely George received an unexpected continuation

Lonely George

In 1971, the last giant turtle of its kind, nicknamed Lone George, was found on Pinta Island in the Galapagos archipelago. He really was lonely, since over the next 40 years he did not leave offspring, despite the feasible help of people who brought him females of closely related species. George passed away in 2012, having lived at least a hundred years, and until recently was considered the last of his family.

However, during the recent expedition of the Galapagos National Park to Isabella Island, home to many hybrid species of turtles, scientists took genetic samples from 50 previously unmarked individuals. And immediately a surprise - in 29 DNA traces of the species Chelonoidis niger were found, which, like George, was considered extinct. And yet another young female has a powerful genetic trace of the species Chelonoidis abingdonii, the native species of Lonely George.

Although this individual is a hybrid, it descended from a direct relative of George, the difference is only one generation. And the small age of the female indicates that her parents are most likely still alive, by the standards of giant turtles this happened quite recently. Since there are many islands, as well as species of turtles, the scientists looked for George's relatives only on Pinta Island, so it is not surprising that they could have missed how one or more individuals migrated to Isabella Island.

And this means that with a high probability right now the tortoise of the species Chelonoidis abingdonii lives in the world and the genus of Lonely George has not been interrupted. And taking into account the found traces of another "extinct" species, Chelonoidis niger, it is time to reconsider the whole concept of the reproduction of giant turtles, the formation of new species and the disappearance of old ones.