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Description of a New Galapagos Giant Tortoise Species (Chelonoidis; Testudines: Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island.

  • Author(s): 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
  • et al.
Abstract

The taxonomy of giant Galapagos tortoises (Chelonoidis spp.) is currently based primarily on morphological characters and island of origin. Over the last decade, compelling genetic evidence has accumulated for multiple independent evolutionary lineages, spurring the need for taxonomic revision. On the island of Santa Cruz there is currently a single named species, C. porteri. Recent genetic and morphological studies have shown that, within this taxon, there are two evolutionarily and spatially distinct lineages on the western and eastern sectors of the island, known as the Reserva and Cerro Fatal populations, respectively. Analyses of DNA from natural populations and museum specimens, including the type specimen for C. porteri, confirm the genetic distinctiveness of these two lineages and support elevation of the Cerro Fatal tortoises to the rank of species. In this paper, we identify DNA characters that define this new species, and infer evolutionary relationships relative to other species of Galapagos tortoises.

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