The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database

Chelonoidis abingdonii (Günther, 1877:85)

Abingdon Island (Giant) tortoise, Pinta Island (Giant) tortoise, Pinta giant tortoise



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Geochelone nigra abingdoni (Günther, 1877:85); Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni (Günther, 1877); Chelonoidis abingdoni (Günther, 1877); Testudo abingdoni Günther, 1877 (original combination); Geochelone elephantopus abingdonii (Günther, 1877); Testudo ephippium Günther, 1875:271; Geochelone nigra ephippium Günther, 1875:271


Conservation Status

Last Record: 24 June 2012

IUCN status: Extinct in the Wild


Chelonoidis abingdonii was believed to be extinct, before a single individual was found (Vagvolgyi, 1974). "Lonesome George" as he became known, was therefore without a conspecific companion (male or female), until his death on 24 June 2012. He was living at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galápagos Islands.

However, some slight hope remains of finding other purebred tortoises of his sub-species given the discovery of at least one first-generation hybrid between George's sub-species and one of the Isabela Island sub-species several years before his death.

Rumours existed that another male, nicknamed "Tony", who currently resides at the Prague Zoo, was a purebred Abingdon Island Tortoise. However, nothing seems to have been done about this, and no DNA tests were performed to anybody's knowledge, to either confirm or refute this claim. And given the immense importance of the potential discovery, the inaction of zoo staff is very suspicious. It was therefore most likely a publicity stunt by the offending zoo to attract more visitors.



Abingdon Island (=Pinta Island), Galápagos












Original scientific description:

Günther, Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf. (1877). The Gigantic Land-Tortoises (Living and Extinct) in the Collection of the British Museum. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London [1877]: 44, pl. xxii, fig. A.


Other references:

Aguilera, Washington Tapia; Jeffreys Málaga and James P. Gibbs. (2015). Conservation: Giant tortoises hatch on Galapagos island Nature 517: 271.

Bauer, Aaron M. and McCarthy, Colin J. (2010). Darwin's Pet Galápagos Tortoise, Chelonoidis darwini, Rediscovered. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 9(2): 270-276. [Abstract]

Baur, G. (1889). The gigantic land tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. The American Naturalist 23(276): 1039-1057.

Bezan, Sarah. (2019). The Endling Taxidermy of Lonesome George: Iconographies of Extinction at the End of the Line. Configurations 27(2): 211-238. [Abstract]

Caccone, Adalgisa; Gibbs, James P. ; Ketmaier, Valerio; Suatoni, Elizabeth; Powell, Jeffrey R. (1999). Origin and evolutionary relationships of giant Galapagos tortoises. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 96(23): 13223-13228.

Cayot, L. J., Gibbs, J. P., Tapia, W. and Caccone, A. (2016). Chelonoidis abingdonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T9017A65487433. Downloaded on 24 July 2016.

Cayot, Linda J. and Hunter, Elizabeth A. (2020). Floreana and Pinta Islands: Restoring tortoise populations through lost lineage recovery, pp. 465-481. In: Gibbs, James P., Cayot, Linda J. and Aguilera, Washington Tapia (eds.). Galapagos Giant Tortoises: A volume in Biodiversity of World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. Academic Press. [Abstract]

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

de Vries, T. (1984). The giant tortoises: a natural history disturbed by man. In Key Environments. Galápagos (ed. R. Perry), pp. 145-156. Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK.

Edwards D.L., Benavides, E., Garrick, R.C., Gibbs, J.P., Russello, M.A. , Dion, K.B., Hyseni, C., Flannigan, J.P., Tapia W., & Caccone A. (2013). The genetic legacy of Lonesome George survives: Giant tortoises with Pinta Island ancestry identified in Galápagos. Biological Conservation 157: 225-228.

Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1959). Survey on the Galapagos Islands. UNESCO Mission Reports 8: 1-31.

Ernst, C. H. and Barbour, R. W. (1989). Turtles of the world. Smithsonian Inst. Press.

Gerlach, Justin. (1998). Famous Tortoises. Privately published. [Available from Justin Gerlach]

Günther, A. (1874). Description of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises. Parts I. and II. introduction and the tortoises of the Galapagos islands. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (4) 14: 311-313.

Günther, A. (1875). Description of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises. Parts I. and II. introduction and the tortoises of the Galapagos islands. Phil Trans. Roy. Soc. 165: 251-284.

Hamann, O. (1979). Regeneration of vegetation on Santa Fe and Pinta Islands, Galapagos, after the eradication of goats. BioI. Conserv. 15: 215-236.

Jones, Jen. (2013). Lonesome George: the legacy. Testudo 7(5): 69-78.

MacFarland, C. et al. (1974). The Galápagos giant tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus) part II: conservation methods. Biol. Conserv. 6: 198-212.

Hunter, Elizabeth A. and Gibbs, James P. (2014). Densities of Ecological Replacement Herbivores Required to Restore Plant Communities: A Case Study of Giant Tortoises on Pinta Island, Galápagos. Restoration Ecology 22(2): 248-256. [Abstract]

Nicholls, Henry. (2006). Lonesome George: the life and loves of a conservation icon. London: Macmillan. 231 pp.

Nicholls, Henry. (2012). The Legacy of Lonesome George. Nature 487: 279-280.

Pak, Hasong and Zaneveld, J. R. V. (1973). The Cromwell Current on the east side of the Galapagos Islands. Journal of Geophysical Research 78(33): 7845-7859.

Poulakakis, Nikos et al. (2020). Colonization history of Galapagos giant tortoises: Insights from mitogenomes support the progression rule. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. doi: [Abstract]

Powell, J. R. and Caccone A. (2006). Giant tortoises. Curr. Biol. 16: R144-R145.

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (1984). Further thoughts on Lonesome George. Noticias de Galápagos 39: 20-23.

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (1996). The Galápagos Tortoises: Nomenclatural and Survival Status. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 1, 85 pp.

Pritchard, Peter Charles Howard. (2005). The Pinta Tortoise: Globalization and the Extinction of Island Species”, Global Connections foundation.

Víctor Quesada, Sandra Freitas-Rodríguez, Joshua Miller, José G. Pérez-Silva, Zi-Feng Jiang, Washington Tapia, Olaya Santiago-Fernández, Diana Campos-Iglesias, Lukas F. K. Kuderna, Maud Quinzin, Miguel G. Álvarez, Dido Carrero, Luciano B. Beheregaray, James P. Gibbs, Ylenia Chiari, Scott Glaberman, Claudio Ciofi, Miguel Araujo-Voces, Pablo Mayoral, Javier R. Arango, Isaac Tamargo-Gómez, David Roiz-Valle, María Pascual-Torner, Benjamin R. Evans, Danielle L. Edwards, Ryan C. Garrick, Michael A. Russello, Nikos Poulakakis, Stephen J. Gaughran, Danny O. Rueda, Gabriel Bretones, Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, Kevin P. White, Adalgisa Caccone, Carlos López-Otín. (2018). Giant tortoise genomes provide insights into longevity and age-related disease. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0733-x

Reynolds, Robert P. and Marlow, Ronald W. (1983). Lonesome George, the Pinta Island tortoise: a case of limited alternatives. Noticias de Galapgos 37: 14-17.

M.A. Russello, L.B. Beheregaray, J.P. Gibbs, T. Fritts, N. Havill, J.R. Powell, A. Caccone. (2007). Lonesome George is not alone among Galápagos tortoises. Current Biology 17: R317-R318.

Snow, D. W. (1964). The giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands: their present status and future chances. Oryx 7: 277-290.

Stanford, Craig B. (2010). The last tortoise: a tale of extinction in our lifetime. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 210 pp.

Sulloway, Frank J. (2006). Is lonesome George really lonesome? Skeptic 12(4): 58-70.

Townsend, E. H. (1925). The Galapagos tortoises in their relation to the whaling industry. A study of old log books. Zoologica 4: 55-135.

Turtle Conservation Coalition [Rhodin, A.G.J., Walde, A.D., Horne, B.D., van Dijk, P.P., Blanck, T., and Hudson, R. (Eds.)]. (2011). Turtles in Trouble: The World’s 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles—2011. Lunenburg, MA: IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservancy, Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and San Diego Zoo Global. 54 pp.

Turtle Conservation Coalition [Stanford, C.B., Rhodin, A.G.J., van Dijk, P.P., Horne, B.D., Blanck, T., Goode, E.V., Hudson, R., Mittermeier, R.A., Currylow, A., Eisemberg, C., Frankel, M., Georges, A., Gibbons, P.M., Juvik, J.O., Kuchling, G., Luiselli, L., Shi, H., Singh, S., and Walde, A. (Eds.)]. (2018). Turtles in Trouble: Te World’s 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles—2018. Ojai, CA: IUCN SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservation Fund, Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Global Wildlife Conservation. 80 pp.

Turtle Extinctions Working Group et al. (2015). Turtles and Tortoises of the World During the Rise and Global Spread of Humanity: First Checklist and Review of Extinct Pleistocene and Holocene Chelonians. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5: 1-66.

Vagvolgyi, Joseph. (1974). Pinta tortoise: rediscovered. Pacific Discovery 27: 21-23.

Van Denburgh, J. (1914). The gigantic land tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci., ser. 4, 2: 203-374.

Weber, D. 1971. Pinta, Galapagos: une lie a sauver. BioI. Conserv. 4:8-12.


<< Back to the Testudines database