Identification of genetically important individuals of the rediscovered Floreana Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) provides founders for species restoration program

Joshua Miller, Maud Quinzin, Nikos Poulakakis, James Gibbs, Luciano Beheregaray, Ryan C. Garrick, Michael Russello, Claudio Ciofi, Danielle Edwards, Elizabeth Hunter, Washington Tapia, Danny Rueda, Jorge Carrión, Andrés Valdivieso, Adalgisa Caccone

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11471
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Keywords

  • Galapagos Islands
  • giant tortoises
  • captive breeding

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    Miller, J., Quinzin, M., Poulakakis, N., Gibbs, J., Beheregaray, L., Garrick, R. C., Russello, M., Ciofi, C., Edwards, D., Hunter, E., Tapia, W., Rueda, D., Carrión, J., Valdivieso, A., & Caccone, A. (2017). Identification of genetically important individuals of the rediscovered Floreana Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) provides founders for species restoration program. Scientific Reports, 7(1), [11471]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-11516-2