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back to article Galapagos tortoise 'Lonesome George' might NOT be last of his kind

"Lonesome George", the giant tortoise believed to be the last of his species when he died in June, may not have been as lonseome as they say. Scientists on the Galapagos islands have found 17 other tortoises that appear to be closely related to the Pinta Island Giant Tortoises, and have similar genetic traits to George. Some of …

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Anonymous Coward

What they really need...

Is to work out their definition of "species". It's all over the place really. Give it a proper specific definition.

Before you down vote this comment, think for a moment on what "species" were originally classified as. They were animals that looked the same. Since then we have discovered genetics etc. Turns out a lot of those animals that looked the same, were not the same genetically or not closely related after all. Still more that they thought were different species are closely related when we check the genetics.

So, going by the old classifications, while adding the new, is rather messy IMO. :/

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Bronze badge

Re: What they really need...

Actually, the only real definition of species, even back then, was that they were able to interbreed. If you can make a child with another animal, you were the same species (but not necessarily the same animal) as them. Hence dogs are all one species, even if they look vastly different. Technically, there's nothing to stop a chihuahua impregnating a Great Dane successfully.

That definition, though, still isn't "perfect" because things change as we discover more about animals. You are not one species. Just you. You contain probably hundreds to thousands of distinct species, genii, etc. of life. Similarly, even down to a cellular level, your mitochondria (without which you would have no decent way to give cells energy) are "captive" parts of a complete different organism inside your own cells. They can even have different DNA to you. That's before you even GET into what's in your stomach from birth and (we believe) replenished by your appendix in the case of a stomach illness. None of them have even remotely similar DNA to you, are the same species of you, etc. but without them you would die (even "boy in a bubble" cases have stomach bacteria etc.).

So any definition of species will be long, like Wall-E trying to categorise a "spork" into his collection of kitchen utensils. But the longest-standing, easiest-to-categorise, easiest-to-observe, most common-sense definition is "what you can successfully mate with, is your species". Let's not get into the complications of the other groupings within species, etc. because then it gets horrendously complicated.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What they really need...

>work out their definition of "species

Never mind species - after habitat loss, the most significant threat to several torts [notably Red/Yellow Foots in South America] is the Catholic church's insistance that tortoise are fish - consequently they are eaten in their thousands on feast days.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What they really need...

In fact it's not so much what you "can" mate with as what you do mate with. If two populations don't in practice interbreed, because of physical obstacles or because they "choose" not to, then they are sometimes regarded as separate species. The case of Corvus cornix and Corvus corone might be worth looking at as an example. These two British crows have in recent times been regarded both as separate species and as subspecies of the same species.

Obviously I agree with the main point: it's not easy to define or determine what constitutes a "species".

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Re: What they really need...

Never mind the complications you get with ring species and other complications...Ultimately its yet another case of trying to put a rigid boundary in a grayscale...

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Def
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Joke

Re: What they really need...

"Technically, there's nothing to stop a chihuahua impregnating a Great Dane successfully."

No, the hard part is teaching them to climb ladders. Once they're up there, the rest is easy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What they really need...

"Technically, there's nothing to stop a chihuahua impregnating a Great Dane successfully."

My neighbours thought they were safe with a small terrier bitch and a large collie dog. However - nature proved them wrong.

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Happy

Re: What they really need...

No, No, the hard part is teaching them to climb ladders with a stiffy.

there you go.

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Silver badge

Re: What they really need...

yes i think the bible was ahead of the game here. It describes creatures being in distinct kinds. So cat kinds and dog kinds and people kinds. Makes a lot of sense anyway.

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WTF?

Re: What they really need...

"the Catholic church's insistance that tortoise are fish"

Fish? Really? FISH????? So they've decided to ignore the reality of nature in order to suit their own personal agenda. Anyone would think they are a bunch of religious loon... oh.

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Nummy

The point we're missing here - despite the clearly edifying debate on classification - is that these beasties aren't extinct and are clearly able to breed. Also we learn from QI as well as the circumstantial evidence of their near rapid extinction that they were utterly delicious.

Is it too soon to hope that we might one day have generated sufficient stock to hope for a bite?

Sadly so - but perhaps this is something we can achieve for future generations.

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Re: Nummy

Some may laugh at your post but I'm inclined to bet that if you were to maximise the available meat production from its home island then Lonesome George the crusty pie would probably be the easiest and most effective way to do it.

It just not make some quick profit for someone or other.

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Unhappy

Re: Nummy

May i just point out that given the time period when the turtles were being consumed in large quantities. It's likely they tasted fairly average but given the taste of most food in this period they probably seemed brilliant.

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Re: Nummy

I'm not certain that the age didn't know a thing or two about food - it was the age of empire, and France and England were both well regarded (though naturally France was the leader) for the quality of their food. Apparently George III's reign was about as good as we got for food. They were certainly still in abundance when Darwin was there.

Here's what QI had to say about these delicious giants of their race:

They were first discovered by explorers and sailors in the 16th century. Immediately, people began raving about their unbelievable deliciousness, comparing them variously to chicken, beef, mutton and butter - but only to say how much better tortoise meat was than the very best of the aforementioned. One giant tortoise would feed several men, and both its meat and its fat were perfectly digestible, no matter how much of it you ate.

Oil made from tortoise fat was efficacious against colds, cramps, indigestion and all manner of “distempers.” (It tasted good, too.) The liver was a peerless feast on its own, and the bones were rich with gorgeous marrow. Then there were the eggs - inevitably, they too were the best eggs anyone had ever eaten. Some sailors were reluctant to try tortoise meat because the animal was so amazingly ugly - but one taste, and they were soon converted.

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Anonymous Coward

Food of yore

They knew about food, all right, especially the aristocracy, but their tastes were probably very different from ours.

I've been on guided tours of National Trust property kitchens where they went into detail on what the aristocracy ate in the 19th century and I don't think many people nowadays would find it very palatable.

It seems to me that not so many people in the UK nowadays really want to eat unadorned meat: a rare steak, or a fried fish with nothing added except perhaps a little butter. They'd be no point in getting an exotic meat like tortoise meat and then turning it into a curry. In any case, I don't see a huge demand for the unusual meats that are already available, such as venison, rabbit, hedgehog, snake, octopus, dog, cat, whale penis, ... English people won't even eat horse meat, though I guess that goes back to an ancient Celtic taboo. (Horse penis, anyone?)

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Joke

Tasty Turtles

I assume they tasted like Chicken?

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Re: Tasty Turtles

Jeez a thumbs down, someone is having a bad day!

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Coat

Dodo

Sounds quite similar to the Dodo bird.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodo_bird

Dave

P.S. Mine's the one with something that tastes like chicken in the pocket.

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Pint

Shagging the neighbours eh?

Dirty old bugger!

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