Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni
800px-Lonesome George -Pinta giant tortoise -Santa Cruz
Lonesome George, the Galápagos tortoise who was the last known individual of his subspecies from its native island
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Reptilia
Order Testudines
Family Testudinidae
Genus Chelonoidis
Species C. nigra
Subspecies C. n. abingdoni
Binomial nomenclature
Chelonoidis nigra
Trinomial nomenclature
Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni
Geochelone abingdoni

Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, also known as Abingdon Island tortoise, Abingdon Island giant tortoise, Pinta giant tortoise and Pinta Island tortoise is an extinct subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to Ecuador.

Lonesome GeorgeEdit

Solitario George Lonesome George Charles Darwin Research Station Galapagos photo by Alvaro Sevilla Design

Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Station, photo taken in December 2011

The last known individual of the subspecies was a male named Lonesome George (Template:Lang-es), who died on 24 June 2012. In his last years, he was known as the rarest creature in the world. George served as a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally.

George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi. The island's vegetation had been devastated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous C. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies. Although eggs were produced, none hatched. The Pinta tortoise was pronounced functionally extinct as George was in captivity. On 24 June 2012, Lonesome George died of unknown causes. He was believed to be over 100 years old, and he weighed 200 lbs. The event may have marked the total extinction of his subspecies. The reason for the ambiguity is that one or more individuals from the subspecies may still be living in captivity or on a neighboring island in the Galápagos.

Conservation effortsEdit

A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete, and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state. The presence of mixed race Pinta ancestry tortoises around Wolf Volcano, on neighbouring Isabela island, suggests the recent presence of at least one Pinta individual near Wolf Volcano. A possible pure-breed Pinta candidate, male and dubbed "Tony", lives in a Prague zoo. A reward of $10,000 was offered for the discovery of a Pinta female to help save the subspecies.

Reproduction attempts Edit

Chelonoidis abingdonii

Dead specimen

Over the decades, all attempts at mating Lonesome George had been unsuccessful, possibly due to the lack of females of his own subspecies. This prompted researchers at the Darwin Station to offer a $10,000 reward for a suitable mate.

Until January 2011, George was penned with two females of the subspecies Chelonoidis nigra becki (from the Wolf Volcano region of Isabela island), in the hope that his genotype would be retained in any resulting progeny. This subspecies was then thought to be genetically closest to George's; however, any potential offspring George would have been intergrades, not purebreds of the Pinta subspecies.

In July 2008, George unexpectedly mated with one of his female companions. Thirteen eggs were collected and placed in incubators. On 11 November 2008, the Charles Darwin Foundation reported 80% of the eggs showed weight loss characteristic of being inviable. By December 2008, the remaining eggs had failed to hatch and x-rays showed they were inviable.

On 21 July 2009, exactly one year after announcing George had mated, the Galápagos National Park announced one of George's female companions had laid a second clutch of five eggs. The park authority expressed its hope for the second clutch of eggs, which it said were in perfect condition. The eggs were moved to an incubator, but on 16 December it was announced the incubation period had ended and the eggs were unviable (as was a third batch of six eggs laid by the other female).

In November 1999, scientists reported Lonesome George was "very closely related to tortoises" from Española Island (C. n. hoodensis) and San Cristóbal Island (C. n. chathamensis). On 20 January 2011, two individual C. n. hoodensis female partners were imported to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where George lived.

Possible remaining individuals Edit

In the wild Edit

In May 2007, analysis of genomic microsatellites (DNA sequences) suggested other individuals of Geochelone nigra abingdoni may still exist in the wild in the Galápagos. A pure Pinta tortoise possibly lives among the 2,000 tortoises on Isabela.

At Prague Zoo Edit

In 2009, a male tortoise by the name of Tony (hatched about 1960, residing in the Prague Zoo since 1972) was posited as a purebreed, native Pinta tortoise. Peter Pritchard, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Galápagos tortoises (and tortoises in general), has found Tony's shell is extremely similar to George's, and those of Pinta specimens in museums. Research is underway to validate this match, and Tony remains at the Prague Zoo.

Death of Lonesome GeorgeEdit

On 24 June 2012, at 8:00 am local time, Director of the Galápagos National Park Edwin Naula announced that Lonesome George had been found dead by his caretaker of 40 years, Fausto Llerena. Naula suspects natural, age-related causes for George's death. As of June 25, 2012, a necropsy is being planned and George's body is being preserved as part of this process.

References Edit

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