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  Page updated:20.01.2012


Genetic study of the Wolf Volcano tortoises

For more information contact:
Washington Tapia Aguilera, Proceso de Conservación y Desarrollo Sustentable
+593 (0)5 252 6189 Ext.227, wtapia@dpng.gob.ec




Wolf Volcano is the highest in the Islands, its height is about 1,700 m above sea level.

The tortoise population of Wolf Volcano is a different case in the Galapagos. According to historical records, pirates and whalers who visited the Islands in past centuries used the low areas of this volcano as a collection site for tortoises caught on the different islands. These tortoises were kept alive to use the meat later, thus mixing different species in that area.

In December 2008, a group of geneticists, technicians, and Park Rangers covered the area inhabited by giant tortoises on the Wolf Volcano, on Isabela Island.




» Wolf volcano


After eleven days, the expedition collected blood samples from 1,663 giant tortoises from the Wolf Volcano population.

Having samples from almost the total estimated population of tortoises from this volcano will allow the determination of their genetic reality. Previously, genetic testing performed on individuals of this population revealed the existence of hybrid tortoises. Some had genes belonging to Geochelone becki, the species from Wolf Volcano, and genes belonging to Geochelone abigdoni from Pinta Island (Lonesome George). Others had G. becki (Wolf Volcano) genes and genes belonging to Geochelone elephantopus, from Floreana Island, which has been extinct since the last century.

Finding more hybrid individuals of the Pinta species would increase the chance to save this species from extinction. It has been proven that by breeding different species of Galapagos tortoises, fertile eggs can be obtained and these hybrids are able to reproduce once they reach sexual maturity.

"
This work will reveal the genetic reality of the tortoise population of Wolf Volcano and will answer the question of whether or not there are tortoises with genes from Pinta, Floreana, and other islands. "

At this time, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is working in collaboration with Yale University in the United States to raise the funds required to complete the genetic analyses of the samples. The results will probably be obtained by the end of April.

This is a project led by the Galapagos National Park in close collaboration with Yale University, where the majority of the geneticists come from, as well as Syracuse University and other organizations that provided resources and staff for the expedition.




The genetic configuration of the Wolf Volcano tortoises may contain more than one surprise.

This work will reveal the genetic reality of the tortoise population of Wolf Volcano and will answer the question of whether or not there are tortoises with genes from Pinta, Floreana, and other islands.

 

 

 

 

 

This program has counted on the support of:

Yale University is one of the most renowned universities in the United States worldwide. The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology supported this Program.


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