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]

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

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

Cayot, L.J., Gibbs, J.P., Tapia, W. & Caccone, A. 2016b. Chelonoidis abingdonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T9017A65487433. Downloaded on 23 June 2021.

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]

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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.

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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]

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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

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