- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007


CHICAGO — The Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George may lose his ranking as the world’s rarest living creature now that scientists have discovered he has a distant cousin, according to a study released Monday.

George, who has stubbornly refused to mate with the female tortoises from a related subspecies placed in his pen, has been considered the last of his kind since his discovery in 1971.

His wrinkled face became a symbol of how human activity leads to extinction, and the 3-foot-wide, 200-pound tortoise has long held the Guinness World Records title of “rarest living creature.”

Researchers now say another tortoise from George’s subspecies — Geochelone abingdoni — may be living on the neighboring Galapagos island of Isabela. A multinational team headed by researchers at Yale, in a study published in Current Biology, say they have identified a tortoise that has half his genes in common with George.

“These findings offer the potential for transforming the legacy of Lonesome George from an enduring symbol or rarity to a conservation success story,” said Yale biologist Jeffrey Powell.

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