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Data from: Genetic rediscovery of an ‘extinct’ Galápagos giant tortoise species

Cite this dataset

Garrick, Ryan C. et al. (2012). Data from: Genetic rediscovery of an ‘extinct’ Galápagos giant tortoise species [Dataset]. Dryad.


Genes from recently extinct species can live on in the genomes of extant individuals of mixed ancestry. Recently, Poulakakis et al. detected genetic signatures of the giant Galápagos tortoise once endemic to Floreana Island (Chelonoidis elephantopus) within eleven hybrid individuals of otherwise pure C. becki on Volcano Wolf, Isabela Island. Movement of tortoises among islands by pirate and whaling ships was not uncommon during the 1800’s, representing a likely mechanism by which individuals from Floreana were translocated to northern Isabela, despite being presumed extinct soon after Charles Darwin’s historic voyage to the Galápagos Islands in 1835. These eleven hybrid individuals with C. elephantopus ancestry were thought to be the last genetic vestiges of a unique evolutionary lineage in the wild. Here we report that reproductively mature purebred tortoises of the recently ‘extinct’ C. elephantopus from Floreana Island are very likely still alive today, as identified and tracked through the genetic footprints’ left in the genomes of very recent hybrid offspring on Volcano Wolf, Isabela Island. If found, these purebred C. elephantopus individuals could constitute core founders of a captive breeding program directed towards resurrecting this species.

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Galápagos Islands