Giant tortoise believed to be extinct a century ago found alive on Galapagos Islands

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.

Key Details:

  • 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.