In Ecuador's Galapagos Islands a new species has been discovered. There is about 250 tortoises living on the island that turns out to be so genetically distinct from the other tortoises. This new species has been identified as Chelonoidis donfaustoi. Chelonoidis donfaustoi is the first species to be named after a person from Ecuador, Fausto Llerena Sánchez "Don Fausto". Don Fausto served as the park ranging, caring for the tortoises for 43 years. However Tom Fritts, a wildlife biologist, proposed the thought of the 250 tortoises being a completely different species.
The geographical separation, 20 kilometers, of this tortoise species from the main tortoise population is what caught Fritts' attention. Adalgisa Caccone, an evolutionary biologist from Yale University, accompanied Fritts. Their decade of work and discoveries can be found in their paper. The new species has 25 mitochondrial DNA mutations that separate it from the main population on the islands. The team analyzed micro-satellite loci, which was 12 highly variable DNA regions, in 51 tortoises from both species. The researches found two distinct clusters emerged when the loci were plotted. The two distinct clusters represent the two tortoise populations. The team has built a family tree of the islands' tortoises has also been constructed using research and thousands of samples collected in the past 20 years. The researchers investigated the two Santa Cruz species using their collected sample. The closest relatives of the newly found species, Chelonoidis donfaustoi, is said to live on a completely different island.
The discovery of a new species is exciting and mind opening. It makes me realize how much life is out there that we do not know about. Finding new species allows us to research them, observe them, and maybe find new genes that they have. This species of tortoises was literally right in front of their eyes for years, so imagine what could be out there that we are not even seeing yet. Undiscovered species could hold cures for various disease and could be the answers that we are always looking for.
The full article can be found here!