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Posts Tagged ‘extinction’

Lonesome George died on Sunday, and with him disappears yet another species (well ‘subspecies’ to be correct, but it still matters!!) from the face of the earth. He was the last known individual of his species the Pinta Island tortoise, Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni,

The last known individual of the subspecies was a male named Lonesome George(SpanishSolitario Jorge)[2], who died on 24 June 2012[3]. In his last years, he was known as the rarest creaturein the world. George served as a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally.[4].

George was found in 1972 on Pinta Island when his subspecies was believed to be extinct. Since then he has been a conservation icon for the Galápagos National Park Service. Unfortunately, repeated efforts to breed Lonesome George with two females from the Espanola tortoise population, species Chelonoidis nigrahad failed. However, he at least had their company until the end.

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Holding a specimen of the now extinct Australian rodent species Leporillus apicalis, the lesser stick-nest rat, in my hands for the first time in the museum’s collection. It was pretty moving… As amazed and lucky as I feel to see it in the flesh, feel it’s claws, fur and whiskers, I feel incredibly sad. To have it that close and that real, and yet know it’s entire species has been removed from this world for ever is a tragedy!

However, I am looking forward to working on these guys, as well as many other currently extant and extinct species of Australian rodents in the future. Hopefully the new sequencing techniques I’ll be implementing in my PhD project will be able to sequence a large portion of even the oldest specimens of extinct species and we can still learn more about them. They may be gone, but they’re not forgotten.

Leporillus apicalis (EX), the Lesser stick-nest rat

Below’s a picture of Leoprillus conditor, the Greater stick-nest rat, which is a sister species to the Lesser stick-nest rat and is still very much alive today thankfully!

Leporillus conditor, the Greater stick-nest rat

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