- A giant Galapagos tortoise, made famous by Darwin and thought to be extinct, still exists on a remote tropical island.
- Genetic analysis found that hybrids resulted from matings between the "extinct" tortoise and another species.
- This is the first time that a species has been rediscovered using genetic footprint tracking.
A species of giant tortoise believed extinct for 150 years was actually just moved from its original home and now lives on the volcanic slopes of the northern shore of Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago.
A genetic analysis, published in the latest Current Biology, found that DNA footprints of the long lost tortoise species, Chelonoidis elephantopus, exist in the genomes of its hybrid offspring. These tortoises turn out to be a mix of C. elephantopus and another giant tortoise from the area, C. becki.
While researchers have yet to isolate a purebred C. elephantopus individual, such tortoises must exist, based on the DNA data. The study marks the first time that a species has been rediscovered by way of tracking the genetic footprints left in the genomes of its hybrid offspring.