Lonesome George, the last Abingdon Island tortoise (Geochelone abingdoni) in the world, has been tasked with preserving the genetic legacy of his species by reproducing.
At the grand old age of 90, George is in his sexual prime so conservationists from the Galapagos National Park have identified two new female partners from a closely related species, the Hood Island tortoise (Geochelone hoodensis) to try to encourage him to mate.
Islands’ most eligible bachelor
Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are home to many unusual species, but none are as rare as Lonesome George. Despite being the Galapagos Islands’ most eligible bachelor, for the last 20 years George has tried and failed to sire offspring with his previous mates, as none of their eggs resulted in viable offspring.
But George still has plenty of life left in him, and scientists now believe George may have a better chance of reproducing with his two new partners from the archipelago’s Spanish Island. Genetic studies have shown that the newly arrived tortoises “are genetically closer… more compatible, and could offer greater possibilities of producing offspring”, the park’s statement said.
World’s ‘rarest living creature’
If this attempt fails, Diego Cisneros, a herpetologist at the National Park, says there could be other options. “There are certain methodologies, hybridization, cloning, etc. but they are not so easy and we’re talking about reptiles, the study of which is not as advanced as the studies of other animals.”
It would be an encouraging story for all threatened species if George, the world’s ‘rarest living creature’, was to pass on his legacy to another generation. So let’s hope it’s love at first sight and George and his two new companions hit if off.
Watch a video of Lonesome George on ARKive.
Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author