While rummaging through genetic data from 156 Galapagos tortoises living in captivity, researchers have discovered that nine of them are descendents of Chelonoidis elephantopus, a species hunted to extinction by whalers in the 19th century, before Charles Darwin visited the islands. Now they hope to resurrect the extinct ancestors by selectively breeding their descendants, according to an article on PhysOrg.com, an online science news service.
The research was made possible thanks to the discovery of bones from Chelonoidis elephantopus found in several old museum collections. Samples of genetic material from the bones were then compared to data banks of DNA sequences from living tortoises, revealing that a lingering heritage still lives on in a few surviving individuals.
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