Friday, November 23, 2012

Will Lonesome George live again?

The Pinta Island subspecies of the Galapagos giant tortoise was represented for decades by a single animal known as Lonesome George.  Two attempts were were made to mate him with females from a closely related subspecies. One he ignored: the other he drowned.  No second dates for George.  Anyway, he died last June, but experts have determined at least 17 living tortoises have some of the Pinta Island genetic makeup. As this article (which sloppily mixes species and subspecies) explains, the good news is that George's subspecies can be brought back in nearly pure form. (The article says 100% pure, but I can't see how that math works: even crossing two turtles with 99% of the right genes won't give you 100%, although the remnant would be so small as to be irrelevant.) The bad news is it would take 100 to 150 years. We're not breeding hamsters here.

1 comment:

omegaman66 said...

Interesting, I have been hoping to hear news of such an undertaking. One of the original wild cattle species I read was brought back doing this very same thing.

It isn't the same thing but equally interesting is the backcrossing work being done to bring back the American Chestnut. And they have succeeded.

Nearly pure but with resistance to the disease that nearly caused its extinction american chestnut trees are not being proliferated and distributed.