Chelonoidis donfaustoi: Eastern Santa Cruz Giant Galápagos Tortoise

by DerdriuMarriner

Chelonoidis donfaustoi is the name of the new Galápagos Giant species, commonly called Don Fausto’s Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise, since October 21, 2015.

Chelonoidis donfaustoi appreciates Don Fausto's 43 service years

Galápagos Island giant tortoise populations are one species richer after announcements by investigators of genetic data and shell shapes from Santa Cruz Island’s eastern-dwelling, 250-member community on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. The slow-moving reptilian grazers in question bring the west Pacific archipelago’s world-famous giant tortoise species to new totals of 15. Chelonoidis donfaustoi commemorates Galápagos National Park’s recently retired, 75-year-old ranger.

Yale University evolutionary biologist Adalgisa Caccone deems Don Fausto Llerena Sánchez’s tortoises most closely related to San Cristóbal Island’s Galápagos giants. Each of the six larger Galápagos Islands exhibits species adapted to different niches within distinct insular ranges of diverse arid to lush habitats. Santa Cruz Island now finds itself harboring eastern- and western-specific species.

*****

Websites:
http://www.esf.edu/faculty/gibbs/
http://www.galapagos.org/blog/author/linda/
http://www.yale.edu/caccone/

*****

Santa Cruz Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra porteri), also known as Indefatigable Island tortoise and as Western Santa Cruz tortoise, shares second largest island in Galápagos archipelago with newly identified Chelonoidis donfaustoi.

Santa Cruz highlands, Galápagos Islands, eastern Pacific Ocean
Santa Cruz highlands, Galápagos Islands, eastern Pacific Ocean

Chelonoidis donfaustoi breeds sporadically with western-dwellers for survival

 

The 15-square-mile (38.85-square-kilometer) Cerro Fatal 6+ miles (9.66+ kilometers) from La Reserva’s 2,000-member Chelonoidis porteri community gets called home for Don Fausto’s drought-tolerant tortoises. Its arid, lava-riddled lowlands harbor smaller-sized descendants of ancestors less than 500,000,000 years old. The Western Santa Cruz Tortoise contrastingly is the larger-sized descendant of 1,740,000,000-year-old ancestors.

Scientists judge species as reluctant to interbreed. But Dr. Caccone and colleagues Linda Cayot, Galápagos Conservancy science advisor, and James Gibbs, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry conservation biologist at Syracuse, know of exceptions. Analyzing mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from live tortoises and Galápagos, United Kingdom, and Wisconsin museum specimens leaves no doubt of eastern traces in the London-stored western holotype. 

 

skull of museum specimen UWZS 32700, holotype for Chelonoidis sp. nov. from Cerro Fatal in Santa Cruz: A = dorsal, B = ventral, C = occipital, D = frontal, E = lateral view)

Nikos Poulakakis et al., "Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species," PLoS ONE, October 21, 2015, Fig 6. A-E
Nikos Poulakakis et al., "Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species," PLoS ONE, October 21, 2015, Fig 6. A-E

Chelonoidis donfaustoi consumes cacti, flowers, fruits, grasses, leaves

 

The breakthrough identification merges technological and visual skills. It nudges the noting of Eastern Santa Cruz’s more compressed shells and pointier, smaller shell-plates by retired United States Geological Survey herpetologist Thomas H. Fritts and processing of genetic evidence by Drs. Caccone, Cayot, and Gibbs for publication in PLoS ONE on October 21, 2015. It therefore offers support to those who seek integrity and sustainability for the entire estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Galápagos giant tortoise populations of:

  • Española;
  • Isabela;
  • Pinzón;
  • San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Santiago.

Eastern and Western Santa Cruz Tortoises indeed prevail despite habitats interconnected by one agricultural zone and threatened by predation of:

  • eggs and hatchlings by ants, pigs, rats;
  • vegetation and water by cattle, goats. 

 

Chelonoidis donfaustoi and namesake Fausto Llerena (caretaker of Lonesome George and staff person of Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Centers) on Santa Cruz Island

Galápagos Islands, eastern Pacific Ocean
Galápagos Islands, eastern Pacific Ocean

Chelonoidis donfaustoi deserves environmental activism and private/public/scientific prioritization

 

Ecologists question more the sustainability of Eastern than of Western Santa Cruz Tortoises. Westerners reside in securer niches sustained by:

  • cloud-forest vegetation;
  • humid climate;
  • lofty bio-geographies.

Don Fausto’s tortoises contrastingly submit to internally stored food and water reserves for 12- to 18-month hungry, thirsty stretches.

Life cycles and natural histories nevertheless take eastern- and western-dwellers along similar survivalist paths of: 

  • January to May mating;
  • June to December nesting of 20 to 25 eggs per 1 to 4 clutches and 110- to 175-day incubations;
  • Maturity from 3-ounce (85.05-gram) newborns into 500-pound (226.79-kilogram) adults;
  • 100+-year life expectancies by respectively midday-active, midday-resting cool-season and hot-season forages along predictable routes;
  • Pre-twenty-first-century predation for meat, oil.

So they both urge ecological prioritization. 

 

New species of giant tortoise discovered in Galapagos ~ conservation scientist Washington Tapia highlights unique traits of Santa Cruz Island's newly identified tortoise species

Published on YouTube on October 23, 2015 by RT UK ~ URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8qco1q_7WM

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

 

Fig 1. Geographic distribution of two known lineages of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island: Chelonoidis porteri occupy La Reserva; Chelonoidis sp. nov. favor Cerro Fatal (indicated in dark gray):

Light gray area connecting distribution areas of two species represents agricultural land.
Nikos Poulakakis et al., "Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species," PLoS ONE, October 21, 2015, Fig. 1
Nikos Poulakakis et al., "Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species," PLoS ONE, October 21, 2015, Fig. 1

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Poulakakis, Nikos; Edwards, Danielle L.; Chiari, Ylenia; Garrick, Ryan C.; Russello, Michael A.; Benavides, Edgar; Watkins-Colwell, Gregory J.; Glaberman, Scott; Tapia, Washington; Gibbs, James P.; Cayot, Linda J.; Caccone, Adalgisa. 21 October 2015. "Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species (Chelonoidis; Testudines: Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island." PLOS ONE, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.01387

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Santa Cruz Island (left) and Baltra (right) flank Itabaca Channel, a navigational waterway in the Galápagos Islands

aerial view
aerial view
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Satellite Image of Galapagos Archipelago ~ Available as Photographic Print and as Premium Photographic Print ~ Available now via AllPosters

Galápagos Islands: an archipelago of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets
Satellite Image of Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 06/28/2016, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/28/2016

MBC, So many answers can be found, so many questions raised, and so much beauty found in Galápagos! Isn't Ecuador lucky in claiming them?!

MBC on 04/28/2016

Had a friend who went to the Galapagos, had a wonderful time! Thanks for another interesting article.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/26/2015

blackspanielgallery, They certainly are, even without considering how widespread they once were and what a super-reduced habitat they survive in now.

blackspanielgallery on 10/25/2015

These are amazing creatures.

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