Menu

HOME

Galapagos researchers find 'extinct' tortoises are still alive

July 21, 2008: A giant tortoise named "Lonesome George" is seen in the Galapagos islands, an archipelago off Ecuador's Pacific coast.AP Photo/Galapagos National Park

Talk about a shell game.

Scientists have located members of a giant Galapagos tortoise species thought to have gone extinct in the 1840s, USA Today reports.

Researchers who tested the DNA of 1,600 tortoises on the Galapagos island of Isabela found at least 84 were offspring of a species that originally lived on Floreana Island.

Poachers were believed to have wiped out the tortoises.

"To have a species that was thought to be extinct in the middle of the 1800s come back is amazing," one researcher told the paper.

Whalers decimated the Floreana population of tortoises in the years after naturalist Charles Darwin made his famous voyage in 1835. Researchers speculate that some escaped from the ships and made their way to Isabela, where their descendants now survive.

Researchers eventually hope to resettle them back on their native island, notes the Los Angeles Times.