Lonesome George was the famed last representative of a giant tortoise species once found on the Galapagos island of Pinta. Image credit: Mark Putney

Famous giant tortoise DNA may hold fountain of youth: UCBO

After Lonesome George’s death he still provides clues to longer life

Ever since Darwin’s first steps on the Galapagos Islands, understanding the adaptations that offer the giant tortoise its extended lifespan has been a tantalizing scientific pursuit.

And now, new research by an international team including researchers from UBC’s Okanagan campus has used the DNA from one famous giant tortoise to uncover the genes that are associated with their longevity. The discovery provides clues to better understand aging in humans and may help preserve the species says Michael Russello, study co-author and biology professor at UBC Okanagan.

“Giant tortoises are among the longest living vertebrate animals and have become an interesting model for studying longevity and age related-disease,” said Russello. “Even though they’re one of few animals that can live longer than 100 years, there has been surprisingly little research into the giant tortoise genome.”

RELATED: UBCO and BCIT team up to brew cannabis-infused beverages

To help identify the genes that give the giant tortoise its extended lifespan, the researchers compared the complete DNA sequence from two long-lived giant tortoises. They used samples from Lonesome George—the famed last representative of a species once found on the Galapagos island of Pinta—and from another giant tortoise species found on the Aldabra atoll, a coral island in the Indian Ocean.

RELATED: UBCO sociology class calls on Kelowna Chiefs to change “derogatory” name

By comparing the giant tortoise genomes with those from other species, including humans, they found interesting variation within genes linked to DNA repair, immune response, and cancer suppression not possessed by shorter-lived vertebrates. None of those genomic variants had been previously associated with aging, offering new avenues for further study.

While individual tortoises have remarkable longevity, Russello says the Galapagos giant tortoises do not, with all living species considered threatened or endangered. He says the results of their study could provide clues into the biological processes and adaptations that gave rise to giant tortoises in the first place, while helping to better protect these animals on the verge of disappearing altogether.

“Lonesome George was a very interesting character in his own right, embodying the plight of endangered species until his death in 2012,” said Russello. “While he inspired many while he was alive, his legacy now lives on through a story written in his DNA.”

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vedder Rotary trail network in Chilliwack will be closed for five days on the south side

The upgrade will take until Friday so trail users asked to take alternate routes

Chilliwack encouraged to commemorate liberation of Holland

Planning already underway to mark the 75th anniversary of the event

UPDATE: RCMP confirm body of missing Chilliwack senior found

Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk had severe dementia

RCMP urge caution for back to school drivers

Police are asking drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians

UPDATE: Police response on Cheam First Nation a ‘non-event’, RCMP say

More than two dozen RCMP and ERT vehicles were at the First Nation looking for a known fugitive

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Memorial to deceased teen stays in place through Labour Day

Hundreds of tributes have been left at the Walnut Grove skate park

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

Most Read