Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bringing Back a Galápagos Tortoise Species

Scientists have recently taken on the challenge to bring a Galápagos tortoise species back to life. After George, a Galápagos tortoise over one-hundred years old died in 2012, his species of Pinta tortoise became extinct. There are 8 Galápagos tortoise species scientists believe and George's species can perhaps be brought back to life soon.

George, the last known of his Galápagos tortoise species
In 2008, more than 1,600 tortoises were tagged with their blood samples also being collected that lived on the flanks of the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.  These tortoises and their families were originally dumped over a hundred years ago. Eighty-nine percent of the tortoises that were tagged were part Floreana whose full DNA genetic profile were obtained from samples in a museum. What made scientists think the Floreana species might not be fully extinct was that some of these tortoises had genes that indicated that their parents were in fact purebred Floreana. Also, seven of the tortoises had high levels of Pinta DNA, which could mean they could be close living relatives of George.

These scientists finally went back to the volcano to find these tortoises in order to separate them based on their DNA, whether they had high levels of Pinta or high levels of Floreana. The tortoises that were the most genetically close to the original species were then bred. The scientists think that it is possible to breed tortoises that will have 95% of their "lost" ancestral genes, and can hopefully bring back George's Galápagos tortoise species. The next step in this study is to analyze each animal's DNA to begin separating the two species and find those with the least mixed ancestry, which can take 5 to 10 years from now.

This article is one example on how an animal's genetics can be used for conservation of a species of an animal. Hopefully with more information and technology in the future it should be much easier to conserve a species so they cannot go extinct. Also, like in this study, some species can even be brought back to life with genetics so hopefully in the future less animals and even plants will become fully extinct.

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