Scientists discover new species of giant tortoise in Santa Cruz Islands

Washington: Genetic analysis has led to the discovery of a new species of giant Galapagos tortoise, a first in more than a century. The newly identified giant tortoise species lives on the Santa Cruz Island and has been scientifically named Chelonoidis donfaustoi. The discovery of the new tortoise species adds more details to the evolution of the giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands, but also contradicts some beliefs previously held by scientists about the nature of tortoises on the Santa Cruz Island.

The world has been made aware of the existence of a previously unknown grand giant tortoise species, but it also come to a shock to some in the scientific realm.

Within a 15 sq mile area on the Santa Cruz Island, lives Chelonoidis donfaustoi, the world’s newly identified species of the huge tortoises that call the Galapagos their home.

It took some genetic analyses to determine that a group of some 250 giant tortoises on the Santa Cruz Island are different from the rest of the tortoises on the island or other islands.

The distinction of Chelonoidis donfaustoi tortoise from the rest of the tortoise population on the island has shaken some long held scientific beliefs.

Till now, scientists had thought that all the giant tortoise they see on the Santa Cruz Island belongs to the same species, but they were wrong. The population of nearly 2,000 giant tortoises in the western part of the island belongs to the Chelonoidis porter species, but the newly identified one is Chelonoidis donfaustoi.

Interestingly, the closest tortoise species that Chelonoidis donfaustoi resembles is the Adalgisa Caccone species, which is from a neighboring island.

Another interesting thing is that genetic analysis shows that the Chelonoidis donfaustoi and Chelonoidis porter tortoises have mated. However, it is said that members of different species are incapable of breeding.

New Species of Galapagos Giant Tortoise Discovered

Galapagos Islands feed on fruits, leaves, and they also graze grasses. It is said that they can stay up to a year with neither water nor food. The Galapagos Islands giant tortoise are classified as endangered.

The discovery of the Chelonoidis donfaustoi tortoise, partially named after a recently retired local park ranger, Fausto Llerena Sanchez, was published in the journal PLOS One.

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