Scientists hope to restore extinct Galapagos turtle species

This photo released by Galapagos National Park on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2017 shows a turtle with genes from an extinct species of turtles that disappeared about 167 years ago, in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The species, Chelonoidis elephantopus, endemic to Floreana Island, was believed to be lost forever, but its genetic trail was found by chance on Wolf Volcano. (Galapagos National Park via AP)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Scientists in Ecuador’s Galapagos islands are hoping to restore a turtle species believed extinct since the 1800s.

The Chelonoidis elephantopus lived on Floreana Island and was captured by seamen in large numbers for food during their long journeys across the Pacific. The species is thought to have disappeared shortly after Charles Darwin’s celebrated visit to the treasured archipelago.

But a group of international scientists who collected 1,700 blood samples from turtles on Isabel Island farther north discovered 80 had genetic traces of the lost species.

Researchers with the Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park have selected 20 turtles with higher amounts of the Floreana turtle in its DNA to reproduce, in hopes of one day creating a turtle that bears close resemblance to the extinct tortoise.