Chelonoidis phantasticus: A rare species of ‘giant’ tortoise, long believed to have gone extinct, has been found alive after over a century on the Galápagos Islands.
- Named Fernanda after her Fernandina Island home, the tortoise is the first of her species, Chelonoidis phantasticus, to be identified in more than a century.
Note: Chelonoidis phantasticus means “fantastic giant tortoise”.
- A genetic test was carried out in May 2021 to confirm that the single tortoise is from a subspecies Chelonoidis niger phantasticus.
- The single female discovered during a 2019 expedition to Fernandina Island has now been confirmed to belong to a Galapagos species long believed extinct.
- She is the first of her species identified in more than 100 years.
- A male species was found in 1906 by the explorer Rollo Beck during an expedition.
- The sighting was made by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences who sailed to the Galápagos Islands to carry out a comprehensive survey of their flora and fauna.
- The animal, which belongs to the rare Chelonoidis phantasticus species, has been named Fernanda after her Fernandina Island home, a largely unexplored active volcano in the western Galápagos Archipelago.
- All giant Galápagos tortoises are listed on the IUCN Red List from vulnerable to critically endangered, with one species already extinct.
- The study has been published in the journal Communications Biology.
About Fernandina Island:
- Fernandina Island (formerly known in English as Narborough Island, after John Narborough) is the third-largest, and youngest, island of the Galápagos Islands, as well as the furthest west.
- The island was formed by the Galápagos hotspot.
- Fernandina has an area of 642 km2 (248 sq mi) and a height of 1,476 m (4,843 ft), with a summit caldera about 6.5 km (4.0 mi) wide.
- The caldera underwent a collapse in 1968 when parts of the caldera floor dropped 350 m (1,150 ft).
- A small lake has intermittently occupied the northern caldera floor, most recently in 1988.
- The island is an active shield volcano that has been erupting since April 11, 2009.
About Galapagos Islands:
- The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.
- These islands are a part of the Republic of Ecuador.
- They are located in the Pacific Ocean and are distributed on either side of the equator.
- The islands surround the center of the Western Hemisphere.