Friday, September 15, 2017

[Herpetology • 2017] Identification of Genetically Important Individuals of the Rediscovered Floreana Galápagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) Provide Founders for Species Restoration Program




Abstract
Species are being lost at an unprecedented rate due to human-driven environmental changes. The cases in which species declared extinct can be revived are rare. However, here we report that a remote volcano in the Galápagos Islands hosts many giant tortoises with high ancestry from a species previously declared as extinct: Chelonoidis elephantopus or the Floreana tortoise. Of 150 individuals with distinctive morphology sampled from the volcano, genetic analyses revealed that 65 had C. elephantopus ancestry and thirty-two were translocated from the volcano’s slopes to a captive breeding center. A genetically informed captive breeding program now being initiated will, over the next decades, return C. elephantopus tortoises to Floreana Island to serve as engineers of the island’s ecosystems. Ironically, it was the haphazard translocations by mariners killing tortoises for food centuries ago that created the unique opportunity to revive this “lost” species today.


Figure 1: Distribution of tortoises among Galápagos Islands and representative photos of tortoise carapace morphology.
(a) Map of the distribution of tortoises among Galápagos Islands along with cartoons indicating carapace morphology for each. Light grey shading indicates domed morphology, unshaded indicates saddle-backed. Extinct species are noted with †. (b) Larger view of Volcano Wolf on northern Isabela Island. The circle indicates the approximate field location of the current study. Examples of Galápagos giant tortoises with domed (c) saddle-backed (d) morphology.  



Joshua M. Miller, Maud C. Quinzin, Nikos Poulakakis, James P. Gibbs, Luciano B. Beheregaray, Ryan C. Garrick, Michael A. Russello, Claudio Ciofi, Danielle L. Edwards, Elizabeth A. Hunter, Washington Tapia, Danny Rueda, Jorge Carrión, Andrés A. Valdivieso and Adalgisa Caccone. 2017. Identification of Genetically Important Individuals of the Rediscovered Floreana Galápagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) Provide Founders for Species Restoration Program. Scientific Reports. 7, Article number: 11471. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11516-2

Back from the dead—how to revive a lost species
 phy.so/424511176 via @physorg_com

  

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