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Author Topic: Lonesome George dies.  (Read 2720 times)

Offline Don_1

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Lonesome George dies.
« on: 25/06/2012 11:52:19 »
Goodbye George.

Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island Galapagos Giant Tortoises was found dead in his compound yesterday by his head keeper Fausto Llerena.

His sub-species Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni was believed to have already been extinct when George was spotted in 1972. He was taken into the care of conservationists and a frantic search was launched to find another, hopefully female, of his species. But it was eventually accepted that George was the last of his kind.

Thought to be between 80 & 100 years old, George was joined in his compound by two female Espanola tortoises, the closest genetically to his sub-species, and in 2009 two  clutches of eggs were laid, but both proved to be infertile. Previous attempts to get George to mate with other sub-species, including the Wolf Volcano tortoise, had all failed.

George had become the star attraction for around 180,000 tourists visiting the Galapagos each year and became a conservation icon.

It was the shape of the Galapagos Islandís tortoise shellís which was the first stepping stone to Charles Darwinís theory of evolution. Having no natural predators, the tortoises thrived on the islands until fishermen and sailors hunted them for meat to almost the point of extinction. Of the 15 sub-species of Chelonoidis nigra only 10 now survive.

The tortoises also came under threat from goats imported by man to the islands, which were decimating the vegetation at an unsustainable rate and leaving the much slower eating tortoises to have to search for the once abundant food plants. Other threats imported into the islands by man include rats and disease.

In recent years, immigrants from the Ecuadorian mainland had come to the islands to make a living from the tourist trade. Though the islands are protected, with some being off limits to all but a few scientists, the population of man has grown leading to calls for limits to be set. This resulted in protests and even a threat to Lonesome George.

An autopsy is to be performed to try to establish Georgeís untimely cause of death. George should have lived for around another 100 years. Harriet, a Chelonoidis nigra porteri taken by Darwin to England and subsequently moved on to Australia, lived to 175 years.

With no known offspring or other individuals of the sub-species, Lonesome George became known as the rarest sub-species on Earth. With his passing, the sub-species is now extinct and the world is the poorer for it.

RIP Lonesome George 23rd June 2012.
« Last Edit: 24/07/2012 17:50:04 by Don_1 »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #1 on: 25/06/2012 19:25:41 »
If we can clone sheep...
 

Offline RD

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #2 on: 25/06/2012 20:13:37 »
allegedly too tasty to survive ...
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #3 on: 25/06/2012 23:10:14 »
If we can clone sheep...
Hopefully they took some tissue samples from George (perhaps a while he was still alive).

However...
Cloning isn't always as easy as as one might think.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrenean_Ibex#Cloning_project

Although, perhaps it would be easier to clone something that lays eggs than cloning a mammal.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #4 on: 26/06/2012 17:58:06 »
Staff at the Galapagos National Park Service tortoise breeding centre report that George had eaten and showed no signs of any health problems the day previous to his sad demise. The fact that he was found in a position which suggests he was making his way to his watering hole has lead to speculation that he may have had a heart attack.

Messages of sympathy have poured into the Galapagos National Park Service from all around the world. Edwin Naula, Director of the National Park Service, has said that following an autopsy and taking physiological samples for preservation, Lonesome George is to be embalmed and exhibited in an interpretation centre, which will bear his name, dedicated to giant tortoises.

In this way, George will continue to be a conservation icon, reminding us of how our thoughtless and selfish actions can affect other species.


If we can clone sheep...

While DNA from the Pinta Island tortoise remains in the Wolf volcano Isabella Island tortoise, separating it out through selective breeding would take many generations and success could not be guaranteed. Some of these tortoises living on the rim of the island volcano are of mixed DNA due to fishermen and sailors dumping tortoises from Pinta Island and other islands in the distant past.

No reptile, bird or fish has ever been cloned, though research is being conducted into the possibility of cloning Georges distant cousins, the Leatherback Turtles; another species of chelonian regarded as endangered. Even if Georges DNA has been preserved, a successful cloning could only be a temporary revival of the sub-species. Though it might be possible to clone both male and female tortoises from Georgeís DNA, the question is would they be fertile? Using eggs from other Galapagos Giant tortoises, the DNA could be stripped out and replaced with Georgeís DNA. By controlling the incubation temperature, the gender of the resulting hatchlings can be determined. However, you would then have male and female tortoises with identical DNA, a recipe for disaster.

Even when the Wolf Island tortoises George had mated with, after 15yrs together, laid the two clutches of eggs (which proved infertile) and during his last years with the Espanola females, it was known that any resulting offspring would not be pure bred Pinta Island tortoises.

The fact is, Lonesome George was destined to be the last of his sub-species, come what may, and we only have ourselves to blame. May his passing be a lesson to us all.
« Last Edit: 27/06/2012 01:01:05 by Don_1 »
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #5 on: 27/06/2012 01:10:01 »
Preliminary results of the autopsy on Lonesome George have shown some disclolouration of the liver, indicating that George may have died of old age.

Johanna Barry, President of the Galapagos Conservancy, wrote this on her thoughts after receiving news of Georges death.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #6 on: 12/07/2012 11:59:34 »
Lonesome George was estimated to be around 100yrs old. It was thought that in common with other giant tortoises, he would reach 180 - 200 years. But the fact is that the Pinta Island sub-species had never been studied as living animals until George was found in 1972. Until his discovery, it had been thought that the Pinta Island Tortoise was extinct. It could be that with its extraordinarily long neck, this species had to endure greater stress than other similar tortoises of the Espanola Island. This may have resulted in the Pinta Island tortoise having a shorter lifespan.

It had been suggested that the Pinta Island tortoise might have been heading for extinction due to the lack of females, not as a result of man's actions. This, however, I would dispute. The lack of females could well be a result of sailors taking them for fresh meat on long journeys. Pound for pound, it would be better to take females than males for food. Males are larger and have a concave plastron, the smaller females, with a flat plastron would take up less space on board ship for the amount of meat they would provide.

Coupled with the fact that goats, imported by man, were decimating the Island's vegetation, I remain convinced that man can be held responsible for the demise of the Pinta Island Tortoise.
 

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Re: Lonesome George dies.
« Reply #6 on: 12/07/2012 11:59:34 »

 

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