A new article published on Plos ONe describes the events that led to naming a new species of Giant Tortoise on the island of Santa Cruz. Currently, the taxonomy of giant Galapagos tortoises (Chelonoidis spp.) is currently based on morphological characters and island of origin. Several studies over the past decade recorded multiple independent evolutionary lineages, prompting the need for taxonomic revision. The article goes on to report that “two evolutionarily and spatially distinct lineages on the western and eastern sectors of the island, known as the Reserva and Cerro Fatal populations, respectively” (Poulakakis, et. al, 2015).
Fig 1. Geographic distribution of the two known lineages of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island: Chelonoidis porteri (Reserva) and Chelonoidis sp. nov. (Cerro Fatal) (indicated in dark gray).
Light gray area connecting the distribution areas of the two species indicates agricultural land. Modified from Russello et al. .
To read the full journal article and learn more about this new species click here.
Poulakakis N, Edwards DL, Chiari Y, Garrick RC, Russello MA, Benavides E, et al. (2015) Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species (Chelonoidis; Testudines: Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138779. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138779