Monday, June 25, 2012

RIP Lonesome George


I met poor old Lonesome George, the Galapagos tortoise, in the late 1980s. He was nearly the size of a VW Bug frame and he hissed like a hydraulic car lift if you got into his personal space.


KQED Science June 24, 2012 RIP Lonesome George.
"The giant tortoise Lonesome George, whose failed efforts to produce offspring made him a symbol of disappearing species, was found dead on Sunday, officials at the Galapagos National Park announced.Lonesome George was believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies and had become an ambassador of sorts for the islands off Ecuador's coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution."
Lonesome George, the last of his species, only lived to be 100—not very old in tortoise years. He hissed like hydraulic brakes on a semi truck. He had a tortoise-sized rock in his enclosure, and would eagerly mount it from time to time, then he'd get a despondent look in his rheumy eye, and forlornly slide off. Couldn't even get his rocks off. It was tough love being the last of his species.

Marsha Calhoun said: I met him three years ago - they still had hopes that he and his girlfriend might succeed (it took him 14 years to decide to approach her). But I don't think the species is extinct - just his island branch. The Galapagans are doing a lot to keep the species itself alive - they are impressive creatures (the tortoises, that is).

Maureen Hurley Alas, with the passing of Lonesome George, it marks the extinction of a species, not merely an island branch sub-species; he was a separate Pinta Island species—they're genetically different.
However, one formerly extinct species, Chelonoidis elephantopus, from Floreana Island was found—sailors had abandoned them on Isabela Island in the 1800s. "Darwin discovered that the islands... were home to their own, distinct, tortoise species. Each differed slightly from those on nearby islands... DNA research finds at least 84 animals who were the direct offspring of a different species from Floreana Island long believed gone Giant Galapagos tortoise species may not be extinct —USA Today

Read on:
"They were originally thought to belong to just one species, Geochelone elephantopus, with 14 different races or sub-species, three of which were believed to be extinct."
The giant tortoise is probably the best known of all Galapagos animals and even gave the Archipelago its name; 'Galapago' means tortoise in Spanish and may derive from the word for saddle, referring to the distinctive saddle-like shell of some of the tortoises. Galapagos giant tortoises can weigh up...
"Although the Galapagos giant tortoises are classified as just one species, scientists cannot be sure whether the fourteen races they recognise actually belong to several different species. A current project to analyse their DNA should answer the question of how closely related the different races actually are. Ten races of giant tortoises still exist in the wild, on the islands of Santiago which has about 800 surviving tortoises, Pinzon (300 tortoises), Santa Cruz (3000), San Cristobal (700), Española (120) and on Isabela Island, which has a different race on each of its 5 volcanoes;- Cerro Azul with about 700 tortoises, Sierra Negra (500), Alcedo (5000), Darwin (1000) and lastly Wolf Volcano with 2000 tortoises.
There is only one surviving tortoise from the island of Pinta. Nicknamed 'Lonesome George', he lives at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, although hopes of finding a mate for him are fading and the Pinta Island race will therefore become extinct when he dies. Three races of tortoise are already extinct - those of Fernandina, Santa Fe and Floreana Islands, largely due to hunting by humans. "
The giant tortoise is probably the best known of all Galapagos animals and even gave the Archipelago its name; 'Galapago' means tortoise in Spanish and may derive from the word for saddle, referring to the distinctive saddle-like shell of some of the tortoises. Galapagos giant tortoises can weigh up...
Galapagos Giant Tortoise - Galapagos, savegalapagos.org

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