Researchers Find Tortoises Similar to Extinct Pinta Giant Tortoises

December 20, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. lonesome (adj.) [lohn-suh m] – alone, having no companion
Example: Tigers are called lonesome hunters because they do not hunt in groups or packs.

2. species (n.) [spee-sheez, -seez] – group of animals or plants which share the same characteristics or qualities and can produce the same kind of young animals or plants
Example: Tigers, lions, and house cats are related but they belong to different species

3. entire (adj.) [en-tahyuh r]– complete or whole; having all parts or members
Example The entire planet is in danger because of global warming.

4. gene (n.) [jeen] – a part of DNA which carries a specific characteristic
Example: Some say intelligence is in the genes, but others say intelligence is the product of hard work.

5. bring back (phrasal v.) [bring bak] – to  return something to its earlier condition; to restore
Example Environmentalists try to bring back the forest’s health by planting more trees.

Read the text below.

In June 24, 2012, the death of a hundred-year-old giant tortoise named Lonesome George saddened the world. Scientists thought he was the last tortoise of his kind, but researchers recently learned giant tortoises like Lonesome George may still be living.

Lonesome George was discovered in 1971. He was believed to be the only living member of his species, the Pinta giant tortoise, found in the Pinta Island of the Galapagos in Ecuador. When Lonesome George died, it meant the extinction or death of his entire species.

However, new research suggests there are at least 17 tortoises in the Galapagos islands that share genetic qualities with Lonesome George. In other words, Lonesome George may not have been so lonesome after all.

Researchers from Yale university studied 1,600 DNA samples taken from tortoises living on Isabela Island, one of the islands in the Galapagos. These DNA samples were compared with Lonesome George’s DNA and DNA samples from Pinta tortoises in a museum.

Out of the 1,600 tortoise DNA samples, the researchers found nine females, three males, and five young tortoises that had genes similar to those of the Pinta giant tortoises. There may be even more hybrid or mixed species of Pinta island giant tortoises in other islands of the Galapagos, and even pure forms of the species on Pinta island itself.

The discovery means that it may be possible to bring back Lonesome George’s species using the tortoises’ DNA, something which Galapagos National Park biologists believed was not possible last June.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is important to bring back the Pinta Giant tortoise species? Why or why not?
·         What happens when an entire animal species dies out? How will its death affect the world or the human race?

Discussion B

·         Tell me about an animal or plant in your area/country which is considered rare or almost extinct. Are there people trying to save the animal or plant?
·         How can ordinary people help save the different animal or plant species in the world?


December 20, 2012