The extinct giant tortoise was the “mammoth” of Madagascar 1,000 years ago

Tortoise species native to the western Indian Ocean, with living species in color and extinct species in grey. newly identified Astrocheles rogbury Above, the third turtle (in grey) from the right. (Image credit: drawings by Michel Rösler and photo by Massimo Delfino)

At least a millennium ago, a giant tortoise crept across Madagascar, grazing on plants on board—a bountiful diet that made it rewarding for mammoths and other herbivores. A new study finds that this previously unknown giant tortoise, like the mammoth, is now extinct.

Scientists discovered this species while studying fuzzy turtles that live in Madagascar and other islands in the western Indian Ocean. After stumbling across a single tibia (lower leg bone) of an extinct turtle, they analyzed the nucleus and mitochondria. DNA They determined that the animal was a newly discovered species, and named it after it Astrocheles rogburyAccording to the study, published Jan. 11 in the journal Science advances (Opens in a new tab). The turtle species name honors the late Roger Burr (1947-2020), French herpetologist and expert on giant tortoises of the western Indian Ocean.

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