After genetic analysis, a new species of tortoise showed itself on the Galápagos Islands, separated from a larger group that had already been discovered. A smaller population of the animals turned out to be an entirely new branch of the species.
Researchers at Yale University, along with a team of other international scientists, analyzed a population of giant tortoises across the Galápagos Archipelago. They focused on a small group on Santa Cruz Island. And, apparently, the tortoises were separated on two different parts of the island, not just by location, but by species as well.
According to lead researcher, Ryan Garrick from Yale University, the giant tortoises occur in two separate parts, the west and the east. After genetic analysis, they have revealed that they are part of two species. The larger group was the Western Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri), and the smaller group the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi).
The Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoises were found in a relatively small number of roughly 100, living just over 6 miles away from the bigger western group. Their discovery has been brought to the attention and conservationists. A new species will require new efforts to protect or boost their population.
As stated by Addalgisa Caccone, a research scientist from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the find elevates the status of the giant tortoises. It will require an entirely new plan and resources. Even though the bigger population seems to have no issues in reproducing, it has been observed that the two species of giant tortoises on the same island have been breeding entirely separately.
They have kept themselves separated from each other, which brings forward a new approach on how biologists view the colonization of the Galápagos Archipelago.
According to James Gibbs, these new species were found in small numbers that require recovery. Now, with their discovery and description, conservationists can formulate plans to boost their population once again. It wouldn’t be the first time, as giant tortoises are no strangers to efforts gathered from biologists to help their numbers grow.
In the 1960s, there were only 15 giant tortoises around the world. The worrying small number placed them on the brink of extinction, but they were saved through conservation efforts. Right now, there are a number of 1,000 giant tortoises breeding on their own. It’s a true testament of the possible success of conservational and environmental groups.
This springs hope for the sake of the smaller population of the newly discovered species.
Image source: photovolcanica.com