Chelonoidis phantasticus (Van Denburgh, 1907:4)
Fernandina Island giant tortoise, Narborough Island giant tortoise, Fernandina giant tortoise
Taxonomy & Nomenclature
Synonym/s: Testudo phantasticus Van Denburgh, 1907:4 (original combination); Chelonoidis niger phantasticus (Van Denburgh 1907); Chelonoidis nigra phantastica (Van Denburgh, 1907); Geochelone elephantopus phantastica (Van Denburgh, 1907); Geochelone nigra phantastica (Van Denburgh, 1907); Testudo elephantopus phantastica (Van Denburgh 1907)
Last Record: 3 April 1906 (holotype collected) (Van Denburgh, 1907); 1964 (tortoise scat and cactus damage found) (Hendrickson, 1965); 2009 (possible aerial sighting) (Rhodin et al. 2017); 2013 (possibly scat and footprints) (Rhodin et al. 2017)
Relocated: 2019 (genetic tests yet to confirm)
No unequivocal sightings of this species have been made since the holotype was collected. However, indirect evidence in the form of a tortoise dropping and partially eaten Opuntia [cactus] were found in 1964 (Hendrickson, 1965). And a possible sighting from an airplane was made in 2009 (Rhodin et al. 2017). Moreover, there have been no exhaustive surveys on the island, and hence the IUCN RedList assessment is in error as regarding the conservation status assigned to the species.
The species' validity is potentially doubtful given that Fernandina seemingly never experienced any pressure from humans or other introduced species. It is hypothesized that the individual represents either an accidental seafarer, or deliberate cargo. However, if the species is valid it's extinction (or at least huge population reduction) may have been due to lava flows.
IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)
Fernandina Island (=Narborough Island), Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Only known from the holotype collected by R. H. Beck on the 3rd of April, 1906, as part of the 1905-6 California Academy of Sciences expedition.
Original scientific description:
Van Denburgh, John (1907). Preliminary descriptions of four new races of gigantic land tortoises from the Galapagos Islands. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (4) 1: 1-6.
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