Integrative evolutionary biology and conservation genetics

New species of Galápagos tortoise, paper in PLOS One

Our paper describing a new species of giant Galápagos tortoise from Santa Cruz Island is now out in PLOS One. The new species, Chelonoidis donfaustoi, is named after Galápagos National Park Ranger Don Fausto Llerena (pictured above, image: Washington Tapia) – whose contributions to the captive rearing of Galápagos tortoises have essentially saved many species from extinction. He was also the primary carer of Lonesome George (the last remaining individual of Chelonoidis abingdoni who died June 24th 2012) during his time in captivity.

 

This paper formalizes what we have known for some time, that there were two species on Santa Cruz Island. These two species differ slightly in the shape of their carapace, but are extremely divergent genetically and represent separate colonizations of Santa Cruz island from different sources. They also occupy different distributions on Santa Cruz. Naming this species now allows for efforts by the Galápagos National Park, Galápagos Conservancy and others to conserve the new species, whose population consists of a few hundred individuals.

 

map

Distribution of the two species of tortoise on Santa Cruz (image: Nikos Poulakakis)