New tortoise is discovered – level 3
A new species of giant tortoise has been identified in the Galapagos Islands. Scientists used genetic data to determine that a group of 250 of the slow-moving grazing reptiles was distinct from other tortoise species residing in the Pacific archipelago.
The newly identified species lives in a 15-square-mile area of Santa Cruz Island and is as different genetically from the other giant tortoise species on the island as species from other islands. The research differentiated the new Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise, given the scientific name “Chelonoidis donfaustoi”, from a larger population of about 2,000 tortoises living about 6 miles away on the western part of the island.
In addition to genetic differences, the two Santa Cruz Island species also differ in the shape of their shell, with the Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise having one with a more compressed shape. It brings the number of Galapagos giant tortoise species to 15.
The new species’ scientific name honours a recently retired National Galapagos Park ranger named Fausto Llerena Sanchez, the former caretaker of the famed giant tortoise Lonesome George who died in 2012 at the age of 102.
Difficult words: species (an animal kind), grazing (feeding on grass), reptile (a cold-blooded animal), archipelago (a group of islands), former (-ex).
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