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Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Rediscovered?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 9th, 2012

Another surprise appears in store for researchers looking into one species of giant Galapagos tortoise that was believed extinct for 150 years. They may still exist, hiding out in the remote area called Volcano Wolf.

The species, Chelonoidis elephantopus, lived on the island of Floreana, and was heavily hunted, especially by whalers who visited the Galapagos to re-stock. But a Yale University team has found hybrid tortoises on another island, Isabela, that appear to have C. elephantopus as one of their parents. Some hybrids are only 15 years old, so their parents are likely to be alive.

One telltale sign was shell shapes. C. elephantopus is especially notable for its saddleback-shaped shell, whereas species on neighbouring islands sported a dome-like carapace.

“Around Volcano Wolf, it was a mystery – you could find domed shells, you could find saddlebacks, and anything in between,” recounted Gisella Caccone, senior scientist on the new study.

For more on the story, see the BBC news, Christian Science Monitor, and Gizmodo.

The Isabela tortoises have been breeding with a close relative from elsewhere in the Galapagos.


This tortoise is thought to be a hybrid of C. becki and C. elephantopus, a species native to Floreana Island some 200 miles away and previously thought to be extinct. Genetic analysis of tortoise population on Isabela Island suggests purebred individuals of C. elephantopus are still alive on Isabela.

Courtesy of Yale University

Thanks, Andreas Müller.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


4 Responses to “Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Rediscovered?”

  1. airgunner responds:

    Well, there’s some good news!

  2. Sincero responds:

    Perhaps one of the reasons for their sudden scarcity on the ground is explained in this rather amusing clip:

  3. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    I wonder how two species of giant land tortoise hybridize across 200 miles of ocean. I need to not be so lazy, and read the linked articles, I guess. Thanks for the post!

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    PoeticsOfBigfoot, yes, please read the story.

    Also, aren’t you aware there’s a subsection of eHarmony that has been set aside for tortoises?



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