A team of Ecuadoran and international scientists on Wednesday said that they have identified a new giant tortoise species on the Galapagos Islands, The Telegraph reported . There are only a few hundred members of the new species, Ecuador’s environment ministry said in a statement .
Scientists say the newly-identified species of giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands has been hiding itself in plain sight for more than 100 years, only now revealed through a genetic analysis.
For years, researchers thought that the giant tortoises living on the western and eastern sides of Santa Cruz belonged to the same species. But the tortoises look slightly different, and so recently, scientists ran genetic tests on about 100 tortoises from both groups.The tests were definitive: The two tortoise populations, which live only about 6 miles (10 kilometers) apart on the opposite sides of the island, are actually extremely distant relatives, according to a BBC report .
The Santa Cruz tortoise species that has long been called Chelonoidis porter are the ones living on the western side, in a region of the island known as La Reserva. And now, the newly identified eastern Santa Cruz tortoise has been named Chelonoidis donfaustoi. It inhabits an area known as Cerro Fatal.
The name of the new species honors Fausto Llerena Sánchez, a Galápagos National Park ranger who spent 43 years caring for endangered tortoises in captivity.