A GIANT Galapagos tortoise recently discovered after it was thought to be extinct could reproduce with 100-year-old sperm still inside her from when she last mated, experts say.
The giant Fernandina Tortoise was found last month on the remote island of Fernandina in the Galapagos after the species had not been spotted since 1906.
AP:Associated Press Fern, the Fernandina Tortoise, who was discovered on the Galapagos Islands, could be storing sperm
AFP or licensors Forrest Galante discovered this species of tortoise that was believed to be extinct
News of this historic discovery was first downplayed because it was originally believed she would need a male partner in order to prevent the species from going extinct.
Forrest Galante, the biologist and Animal Planet presenter who discovered the reptile, said the female could still save her species because of her ability to store fertile sperm until she needs it.
The tortoise, now named Fern, is about 110 years old and when she gains weight from being in captivity may surprise conservationists by laying eggs if she has the decades-old sperm inside her.
Galante told the Mirror Online: “It’s incredible, but female tortoises are able to withhold viable sperm within them for decades, then produce offspring without having to mate a second time.
“Nobody knows anything about the Fernandina tortoise because it’s the first one ever found, but given the harshness of the environment and the uniqueness of the animal, it’s certainly possible that she is able to hold viable sperm for 100 years.”
How do female tortoises store sperm?Female tortoises can store sperm through specialised structures in their reproductive system called sperm storage tubules.
They are able to move the sperm through contractions in and out of the storage structures.
Some female tortoises can store sperm from more than one male and can then choose, which sperm she wants to fertilise her eggs with.
Animals with lower body temperatures can store sperm better because of their reduced metabolic rates.
FERN COULD SAVE HER SPECIES
Fern was captured during an expedition funded by US TV channel Animal Planet for the series Extinct or Alive, which Forrest presents.
He went to the remote island of Fernandina, about 620miles from Ecuador’s mainland and has the La Cumbre volcano – one of the most active in the world.
Galante and his team from the Galapagos National Park and the US NGO Galapagos Conservancy began the expedition with a 15-hour boat ride from Santa Cruz, the capital of the Galapagos Islands.
Within hours of arriving, Galante found tortoise poo and an active bedding site.
Fern was found completely alone and had been surviving on a green patch surrounded by lava flows.
Galante said there is no way to tell if she has been alone her whole life or if she lived most of her life with another tortoise.
No other male was found with Fern.
The only other tortoise of the same breed to be found was male and was found dead at the turn of the century.
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Galante added now it’s time to find a male suitor to prevent the species from dying out, but she could lay eggs at any moment.
He added: “We could mate her with another male from another nearby island, so you would have a tortoise which is very genetically close to the Fernandina tortoise and aesthetically identical.
Or she could surprise us by using sperm she’s kept inside her for decades and just start laying eggs. That would be just incredible.”
AP:Associated Press Fern and other female tortoises are able to store sperms for years after they mate
AFP or licensors It is believed Fern is 110 years old
AFP or licensors Jeffeys Malaga and Washington Tapia made the important discovery
AFP or licensors The species of giant turtle had not been seen since 1906
AFP or licensors There are 15 breeds of giant tortoise in the Galapagos
AFP or licensors The giant tortoise is thought to have first arrived in the Galapagos 2-3m years ago
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