Yesterday, Lonesome George passed away. George was a Pinta Island tortoise (or Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni). Lonesome George was a well-known, powerful international symbol for conservation. But now, with the passing of George, his subspecies has gone extinct.
So, farewell to Lonesome George, the last of his kind.
Or was he?
In 2007, DNA analysis of giant tortoises in the Galápagos archipelago showed that on a nearby island, Isabela Island, hybrids between George’s subspecies and a closely related one (C.n.becki) are walking around (slowly, of course). This led the authors to suggest that there might be a possibility that another one of George’s kind, alive and well, inhabits Isabela Island.
To the best of my knowledge, the existence of another Pinta Island tortoise has not yet been confirmed.
Regardless of whether he was truly the last of his kind or not,
Russello, M.A., Beheregaray, L.B., Gibbs, J.P., Fritts, T., Havill, N., Powell, J.R., & Caccone, A. (2007). Lonesome George is not alone among Galápagos tortoises. Current Biology, 17 (9) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.03.002