Fans of nature would be hard pressed not to recall the iconic Galapagos tortoise nicknamed "Lonesome George," a last-of-his-kind creature that died in 2012 at more than 100 years old.
George is gone, but soon his species of Galapagos tortoise may once again lumber on his native island.
According to the New York Times, plans are afoot to revive George's species (the Pinta tortoise) with some help from close blood relatives of the famous animal.
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Lonesome George was found alone on Pinta in the Galapagos Islands in 1971 - the sole remaining tortoise on the island. He was moved to Santa Cruz Island for his own protection, where he lived another 41 years, all mating attempts to keep his line alive failing.
George's death would seem to have been the end of the line, for the Pinta tortoise. But, according to the Times, living tortoises on Isabela Island, south of Pinta, were found during a 2008 survey to have high amounts of Pinta-tortoise DNA, raising the tantalizing possibility that some of them may be in the family tree of George himself.
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Next up, scientists plan to breed the tortoises from Isabela that are as genetically close as possible to the original Pinta species.
If that captive-breeding effort is a success, the hope is that new tortoise populations can once again wander Pinta within a decade and within a few generations they'll be near genetic matches for animals like George.
That's a boon not only for the Pinta species, but also for the island itself, which benefits from tortoises, as the slow-movers disperse seeds that help the ecosystem thrive.
via The New York Times