Poor Lonesome George

Who knows what it’s like to be the last of their species? George the Pinta Island Tortoise did. The last of his kind, George lived through the age of two world wars, a cold war, men on the moon and the turn of the 21st Century, that’s not bad, for a tortoise.

800px-Lonesome_George_-Pinta_giant_tortoise_-Santa_Cruz

George was from the Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin, the author of On The Origin of Species first noticed the differences in birds now known as Darwin’s Finches, thus giving him the idea for the theory of evolution.

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The Galápagos Island tortoise is the worlds largest species of tortoise, and George was a subspecies found on the island of Pinta. The earliest records of this species dates back to 1877, by 1971, it appeared that only Lonesome George remained, making this sub-species ‘functionally extinct‘ – meaning that though there may still be a couple of members of a species left, there’s no way that the population can ever return to a good level.

There are two reasons for George being so lonesome, the first was over hunting by humans, with the second being the introduction of feral goats, who ate much of the vegetation on the island and destroyed the habitats.

There were attempts to have George mate with females from other closely related species on the nearby islands. George did mate with one of the females and produced a total of 13 eggs with her, but none of them hatched.

George lived in captivity for just over 40 years, and was found dead by his keeper on the 24th of June 2012. He had lived an estimated 100 years, and had simply died of old age.

Humans have been the cause of many extinctions, what species are no longer with us? (This is only a select few!)

  • The Dodo bird – the origin of the phrase “going the way of the Dodo”, they were hunted to extinction within 100 years of discovery800px-Oxford_Dodo_display
  • Baiji River Dolphin. This species of dolphin were found in the Yangtze river in China. As China grew bigger economically, the river was used more and more. It became highly polluted, the dolphins were caught in nets and excess noise pollution caused the near blind dolphins to collide with boat propellers. In 2006, scientists spent six weeks searching for the dolphins, but not even one was found, and so the species was declared extinct.Unknown
  • Quagga. Originally from the plains of South America, this animal looked like a strange mix between a zebra and a horse. It was hunted to extinction due to its interesting hide in 1870.

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Want to see what other species are extinct due to human actions? Here are some other resources to check out:

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