Mary’s Monday Metazoan: RIP, Lonesome George

Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island Tortoises, died on Sunday. He left no survivors that are known.

His death marks the extinction of Chelonidis nigra abingdoni.


  1. Infophile says

    A sad day, truly. I did notice that the Wikipedia article lists another male in captivity as a possible Pinta Island Tortoise, but it doesn’t really change things. The species is gone, a result of human action.

    Perhaps I’ll go and make a donation to a wildlife fund, in honor of Lonesome George. It won’t help him or his species, but it may give someone else a fighting chance.

  2. osmosis says

    Can’t we harvest it’s DNA or something? Maybe in the future if we have some well-preserved samples, we could clone us some new ones.

  3. Infophile says

    @4 Osmosis: That’s almost certainly being done. Scientists were able to (very briefly) clone the extinct Pyrenean Ibex, but the clone only survived for seven minutes. I believe they’re still trying, though. Cloning is tough, and that’s with a species where they understand a lot about its gestation. I would suspect that cloning a reptile is far different from cloning a mammal, so it may be a long time off before the species might reemerge.

  4. A. R says

    I hate reading things like this. I’m even opposed to killing the rest of the Smallpox samples.

  5. jamesemery says

    This makes me so damned upset… Every time I even heard his name it made me want to burst into tears :(

  6. richardtomsett says

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr George. Delightful chap. Sad to read his obit.

  7. lonesomegonad says

    Au Revoir Cousin. I will also make a donation to a wildlife foundation in your name. Although I seriously doubt that it will have any effect on the slow motion suicide of all life on this sick planet. Please excuse my depression.

  8. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Guess this was a good day to increase my WWF donation. Currently focussed on the turtles still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s tornadoes in QLD.

  9. davem says

    His death marks the extinction of Chelonidis nigra abingdoni.

    Abingdoni? I didn’t see any tortoises n Abingdon last time I was there…

  10. Louis says

    A sad day. I am not impressed with my species some days.


    P.S. A.R. Seconded on the smallpox thing. Lock it up, don’t eradicate it.

  11. says

    Audley @17: they are supposed to do the autopsy today.

    Davem @15: most of the Galapagos Islands have both English (the older, pirate/whaler era) names and Spanish (after Ecuador claimed them) names. So Pinta Island was traditionally Abingdon Island.

  12. marko says

    I had to hear this from you. The news in the UK before I left for work this morning was dominated by a story about a bunch of overpaid, over privileged thugs who were a bit sad about losing a game of something or other. The extinction of a species is seemingly much less important.
    A sad day indeed.

  13. AylaSophia says

    Poor George. This makes me incredibly sad. Thanks for honoring his memory, PZ.

  14. leighshryock says

    Just for personal amusement, I decided to check out the Fox News article on the death of Lonesome George. While they don’t outright lie, they don’t do two important things:

    Explicitly state that this was an extinction event, and that humans are responsible for it. They skirt around these by mentioning its death with lesser terms, and leaving the whole ‘humans decimated their population’ near the end, with somewhat misleading words.

  15. Sili says

    So it goes.


    ‘humans decimated their population’

    Sven will be happy to know that I have to beat down my inner prescriptivist very hard now.

  16. Russell says

    Give the ardor with which he hissed at passing Argentine ships during the Falklands War, and his baptism by Church of England divinity student named Darwin, George deserves a posthumous commission as a Royal Navy Commodore, and burial in Westminister Abbey.

    I hope his cousin Bishop Wilburforce Tertius was o hand to give him the last rites.

  17. leighshryock says

    To be pedantic this should read ‘humans exterminated the population’. Fuck!

    My choice of words was due to the source material. Yes, decimate is indeed the wrong word.

  18. Dalillama says

    It may be that humans decimated their population, while indirect influences of human activity exterminated them. It’s my understanding that a major factor in their extinction was introduced feral goats eating the vegetation they relied on for food in addition to humans shooting them to eat, so it may well be that humans only shot 10% of them and the rest died because they couldn’t compete with the goats.

  19. ChasCPeterson says

    Abingdoni? I didn’t see any tortoises n Abingdon last time I was there…
    Pinta Island was traditionally Abingdon Island.

    But if the subspecific epithet is supposed to refer to its island of origin, shouldn’t it be abingdonensis? The-i suffix normally indicates naming after a person (in this case, I guess, the Earl of Abindgon).

  20. nonny says

    Really sad.

    I’m hoping cloning will improve so that some extinct species will be brought back (I’d love to see a living Thylacine) but even if they manage to bring a few back, the species will never florish like it did before. We’ve lost something irreplacable.

  21. Crudely Wrott says

    Poor old feller
    Never knowing the clatter
    Of rattling little carapaces

    I wonder if he
    Having bred true with she
    Would have recognized their little faces
    RIP, old one. May you not be truly the last.