A rare single female Galápagos species thought to be extinct for more than a century has been found alive on Fernandina Island.
The “fantastic giant tortoise” is the first Chelonoidis phantasticus to be seen since a male specimen was discovered by the explorer Rollo Beck during an expedition in 1906, The Guardian reported.
The female was found on Fernandina Island and has since been named Fernanda, after the island.
According to New Scientist, the species could have been shaken from a nearby island by humans, or possibly floated over in a storm. For some time, researchers were not certain about species she belonged to as the nearby islands also host other similar giant tortoise species.
An ecology and evolutionary biology researcher at Princeton University, Stephen Gaughran at Princeton University and his colleagues compared her DNA to other known Galapagos tortoises to determine which species Fernanda belonged to. According to them, she lacked the striking saddleback flaring of the male male species and they doubted that she was a native phantasticus tortoise. He shared that their initial suspicion was that this was not a native tortoise of Fernandina Island.
“We simultaneously were able to show the connection between Fernanda and the other Fernandina tortoise, and also the distinctiveness of those two tortoises from species that we see on other islands.
“I was surprised, and then once it sank in, I was really excited about it,” he said.
The animal is estimated to be over 50 years old, but scientists say she could live to around 200 and they are hoping to find her a suitable mate so they could breed and revive the species. “Our hope is that there are still a couple of other of these tortoises out there on the island. But most likely there aren’t very many of them,” he said.