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New species of giant tortoise named Chelonoidis donfaustoi discovered in Galapagos Islands

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New species of giant tortoise, named‘Chelonoidis donfaustoi’was identified by a team of Ecuadoran and international scientists on the Galapagos Islands in Pacific. The tortoise was named after a retired Galapagos park ranger.

The newly-identified species, also known as the Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise, lives on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Island and was also found to be genetically different from tortoises on other islands. These 250 slow-moving reptiles with compressed shell from other species carries more compressed shape than other species is distinct from another species on Santa Cruz Island.

The discovery of Chelonoidis donfaustoi was published in the Journal Plus on October 21, 2015.

The team of scientists differentiated the two species through genetic and morphological studies, within its taxon. They find that there are two evolutionarily and spatially distinct lineages on the western and eastern sectors of the island, known as the Reserva and Cerro Fatal populations, respectively.

Analyses of DNA from natural populations and museum specimens, including the type specimen for C. porteri, confirm the genetic distinctiveness of these two lineages and support elevation of the Cerro Fatal tortoises to the rank of species. The identified that DNA characters that define this new species, and infer evolutionary relationships relative to other species of Galapagos tortoises.

Till date it was believed that the two giant tortoise populations on Island were the same species, but genetic testing proved this to be wrong.

Chelonoidis donfaustoi is the 15th known tortoise species to be discovered on the archipelago, though four are now extinct. The species also needs protection and restoration as their estimated population is about 250.

Giant tortoises in the Galapagos tend to weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

Giant tortoises were among some of the well-known creatures studied closely by British naturalist Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands in the 1830s.