Fernanda, a giant Galapagos land tortoise, was discovered in 2019 in the vegetation of Fernandina Island.

She was then suspected of belonging to the

Chelonoidis phantasticus

, a species thought to have been extinct for a century, explains



Three years later, a team of scientists from Newcastle and Yale officially confirmed in a study published Thursday in

Communications Biology

that Fernanda did indeed belong to this extinct species.

She is therefore officially the first turtle of her species to have been seen since 1906, when a male specimen was discovered by Rollo Beck exploration during an expedition.

It is also by comparing Fernanda's DNA with that of this specimen dating from 1906 that the researchers were able to attest to her biological identity.

A study in @CommsBio uses genomic data to show that the Galapagos giant tortoise species native to Fernandina Island appears to be alive and well, survived by at least one female after being considered extinct since 1906. https://t.co/eGxgRjnTuh pic .twitter.com/UgRblBtCAS

— Nature Portfolio (@NaturePortfolio) June 12, 2022

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turtles in danger

In 2019, explorers doubted her species because Fernanda is smaller than most giant tortoises and has a shell considered unusual.

These features seem ultimately linked to the lack of vegetation on this arid volcanic island, which had remained largely unexplored prior to this expedition.

Now, scientists believe that there are still about fifty individuals of Fernanda's species.

A new expedition has also been announced by the government of Ecuador in May 2021 to find other Chelonoidis phantasticus.

In total, about fifteen species of giant tortoises are listed in the Galapagos archipelago.

Two are considered extinct, including

Chelonoidis abingdoni

, with the last individual of the species having died childless in 2012. All other species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, listed as vulnerable or critically endangered.


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