Tech and genetics will meet to revive the lost Pinta tortoise, a lineage extinct with the death of Lonesome George in 2012.
According to scientists looking into the revival of the Pinta tortoise, the lineage might not be extinct in fact. The gene pools of sister species holds the key to genetic material needed to bring back the saddled tortoise of the Galapagos island. The plan envisions a multi-year framework that is expected to be crowned by the revival of the Floreana and Pinta tortoise species.
Thus, tech and genetics will meet to revive the lost Pinta tortoise. Genetic analysis and a careful breeding selection will be used in the process. In 2008, scientists collected blood samples and tagged over 1,500 tortoises on Isabela Island. After genetic analysis was conducted, the researchers found that seventeen of the tortoises had a high percentage of Pinta tortoise DNA. With the death of Lonesome George at the age of 102 years old, the spark of using the Pinta tortoise DNA was created. The island ecosystem including the Pinta tortoise inspired Charles Darwin in creating the theory of evolution.
Another surprise held by the genetic pool collected in 2008 was that 89 of the tortoises held Floreana Island tortoise DNA. Floreana Island tortoises were thought extinct after sailors extensively fed on them. Some of the tortoises tagged at the time even looked a lot like a ‘purebreed’.
Since November, the research team started expeditions back to the island to find those tortoises that had a high Pinta tortoise DNA percentage. So far, 32 tortoises were brought back from the island. Most feature the prominent saddle-like shells. Both Floreana and Pinta tortoises have the saddle-like shells.
With the tortoises retrieved, the plan is to breed them in captivity according to carefully selected patterns. The end purpose is to revive the lost lineage of the Pinta tortoise, or to bring it as close as possible to a purebreed. It is possible that with genetic analysis and careful breeding the Pinta tortoise will be back in just a few generations. According to the researchers, the highest percentage of Pinta tortoise DNA that could be obtained from the breeding is 95 percent.
Computer reconstructions of the genomes of the Floreana and Pinta tortoise will serve as the blueprint for the project. Thanks to computer modelling, the breeding patterns will be maximized for the best result of the many possible genetic crosses.
Photo Credits: Flickr