Lonesome George: Maybe Not so Lonely?
Last June, when the beloved giant Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George died, the world mourned not only him, but also the loss of an entire subspecies. Lonesome George was commonly believed to be the last living member of the Pinta Island tortoise family, and his death became a symbol of shrinking biodiversity as the world lost yet another species to extinction. For decades, scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station had tried to tempt Lonesome George into breeding with female tortoises of similar genetic makeup to create hybrid offspring, who would carry at least part of the Pinta genetic code. But all attempts were unsuccessful, and Lonesome George remained lonely. But now, a new study from researchers at Yale University shows that perhaps Lonesome George was never alone, but simply separated.
Baby tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station, part of the Galapagos tortoise breeding program.
After collecting DNA from more than 1,600 giant tortoises, researchers …