Fernandina Island Galápagos tortoise

From Wikipedia

Fernandina Island Galápagos
Chelonoidis nigra phantastica.jpg
Holotype Chelonoidis phantastica adult male specimen, collected by Rollo H. Beck on April 5, 1906.

Critically endangered, possibly extinct ( IUCN 3.1) [1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Testudinidae
Genus: Chelonoidis
C. phantasticus
Binomial name
Chelonoidis phantasticus
Rhodin et al., 2017 [2]
  • Testudo phantasticus Van Denburgh, 1907 [3]
  • Geochelone nigra phantastica Iverson, 1992 [4]
  • Chelonoidis 2 phantastica [2]

Chelonoidis 2 phantasticus (commonly known as the Fernandina Island Galápagos tortoise or Narborough Island giant tortoise) is a species of Galápagos tortoise that was discovered in 1906 and thought extinct, until a single female was discovered living on Fernandina Island by an expedition in February 2019. [5] [6] [7] In May 2021, a genetic test carried out by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences confirmed that the single female tortoise discovered in 2019 is from the species Chelonoidis phantasticus. [8] [9]


Chelonoidis phantasticus is considered a member of the Chelonoidis nigra species complex, variably considered a subspecies of C. nigra or a valid species itself. Rhodin et al. (2010) lists them separately but under the heading "C. nigra species complex". [10]

Discovery and rediscovery

Originally known from only one male specimen found (and killed) by members of the 1906 California Academy of Sciences expedition, there were discoveries of putative tortoise droppings and cactus bite marks in 1964 and 2013, and an unconfirmed sighting in 2009. [1] [11]

No confirmed live tortoises nor remains were found on Fernandina until an expedition in February 2019 discovered an elderly female. [12] The tortoise was transferred to a breeding center on nearby Santa Cruz Island, for the purpose of conservation and genetic tests. There are efforts being made to find a suitable male for the female, named Fern by her discoverers, to breed with. [13] [14] [15]

The 2019 expedition was undertaken by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and Galapagos Conservancy and was led by Washington Tapia-Aguilera— Director of Conservation at the Galapagos Conservancy and director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative [16] —and included four rangers: Jeffreys Málaga, Eduardo Vilema, Roberto Ballesteros, and Simon Villamar. [5] The search and discovery were shown in Forrest Galante's television show, Extinct or Alive (season 2, episode 1). While some accounts have credited Galante with the discovery, [17] this is disputed by Tapia-Aguilera who has highlighted that "Ecuadorian park ranger Jeffreys Málaga was the one that knew the land, tracked the tortoise, and ultimately made the discovery before calling over the rest of the team." [18]

On 25 May, 2021, officials announced that genetic tests had confirmed that the female tortoise found in 2019 is indeed a member of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species. Geneticists from Yale University in the United States compared the female's DNA with a sample extracted from the male specimen found in 1906. [19]

The Director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, has said that a further expedition will be launched to Fernandina Island to try to locate other members of the same species. [20]

See also


  1. ^ a b Rhodin, A.G.J.; Gibbs, J.P.; Cayot, L.J.; Kiester, A.R.; Tapia, W. (2017). "Chelonoidis phantasticus (errata version published in 2018)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b Turtle Taxonomy Working Group; Rhodin, A.G.J.; Iverson, J.B.; Bour, R.; Fritz, U.; Georges, A.; Shaffer, H.B.; van Dijk, P.P. (2017). "Turtles of the World: Annotated Checklist and Atlas of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status" (PDF). In Rhodin, A.G.J.; Iverson, J.B.; van Dijk, P.P.; Saumure, R.A.; Buhlmann, K.A.; Pritchard, P.C.H.; Mittermeier, R.A. (eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs. 7 (8th ed.). pp. 1–292. doi: 10.3854/crm.7.checklist.atlas.v8.2017. ISBN  978-1-5323-5026-9. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ Van Denburgh, John (1907). "Preliminary descriptions of four new races of gigantic land tortoises from the Galapagos Islands". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 4th series. 1: 1–6.
  4. ^ Iverson, J.B. (1992). A revised Checklist with Distribution Maps of the Turtles of the World. Richmond, Indiana: J.B. Iverson Pub. p. 363. ISBN  0961743115.
  5. ^ a b Langlois, Jill (February 22, 2019). "How an 'extinct' tortoise was rediscovered after a century". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  6. ^ Godlewski, Nina (2019-02-21). "Tortoise thought to be extinct for a century found alive in Galapagos". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  7. ^ Stambaugh, Alex (21 February 2019). "'Extinct' Galapagos tortoise found after 100 years". CNN. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Galápagos tortoise found alive is from species thought extinct". BBC. May 26, 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  9. ^ "Giant Tortoise Found in Galapagos Confirmed to Belong to Species Thought to be Extinct | May 27, 2021". The Daily NewsBrief. 2021-05-27. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  10. ^ Rhodin, A.G.J.; van Dijk, P.P.; Iverson, J.B.; Shaffer, H.B. (2010). "Turtles of the World, 2010 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status" (PDF). Chelonian Research Monographs. 5: 000.85–000.164. doi: 10.3854/crm.5.000.checklist.v3.2010. ISBN  978-0965354097.
  11. ^ Hendrickson, J.R. (1965). "Reptiles of the Galápagos". Pacific Discovery. 5 (18).
  12. ^ "Tortuga considerada extinta hace 100 años es descubierta en Galápagos" (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Marcelo Mata on Twitter" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  14. ^ "Not seen for 100 years, a rare Galápagos tortoise was considered all but extinct – until now". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  15. ^ "Giant tortoise believed extinct for 100 years found in Galápagos". The Guardian. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Galapagos Conservancy staff page" (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Discoveries". forrestgalante.com. 23 March 2019. Retrieved January 30, 2021. In 2019, during an expedition to the Galapagos, Galante trekked over Fernandina Island and discovered a female Fernandina Island tortoise, a species that hadn’t been seen for 113 years and also was classified as extinct.
  18. ^ Wight, Andrew J. (8 March 2020). "In the bombast of an American TV host, colonial science lives on". Salon.
  19. ^ "Ecuador confirms Galapagos tortoise is from species thought extinct". France 24. 2021-05-26. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  20. ^ "Galápagos tortoise found alive is from species thought extinct". BBC News. 2021-05-26. Retrieved 2021-05-27.