Genetic tests have confirmed that a turtle found in 2019 on the Galapagos island of Fernandina is a member of a species thought to have gone extinct a century ago, according to officials in Ecuador.
Geneticists from Yale University in the United States compared DNA from the female turtle found two years ago with a sample extracted from a male member of the species – Chelonoidis phantasticus – in 1906.
“It was believed to have gone extinct more than 100 years ago!” Ecuadorean Environment Minister Gustavo Marique said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We have reconfirmed its existence. The tortoise of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus was found in #Galapagos”, he said.
The Chelonoidis phantasticus, typical of Fernandina Island, is one of the 15 species of giant tortoises native to the Galapagos archipelago.
The Chelonoidis species of Santa Fe Island and the Abingdonii species of Pinta island have disappeared.
Lonesome George, a member of the species Chelonoidis abingdonii, died in 2012 without offspring after it did not mate while in captivity with females of related subspecies.
The male tortoise became an emblem of the Galapagos, an archipelago located 1,000km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador and which takes its name from the gigantic turtles.
“This discovery undoubtedly renews our hope for the recovery of this species, in order to avoid a fate similar to that of Lonesome George,” Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park, said in a statement following Tuesday’s announcement.