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Genome Found In Tortoise George’s DNA Reveals Clues On Longevity

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Lonesome George was an extremely famous tortoise. He wasn’t just famous for being old, but also being the last of his kind. He was the only Pinta Island tortoise to survive the extreme poaching that went on in the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately, the line of tortoises George came from ended with him when he passed in 2012.

There were attempts to mate him with female tortoises of other species, but none were met with success. This was likely due to his age. Although he has passed, there was a great deal learned about George’s species and tortoises in general.

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Researchers took to closely examining the large reptilian’s genetic code in an attempt to determine how he had lived for so long.

Carlos Lopez-Otin, a professor at the University of Oviedo in Spain, asked Dr. Caccone, a Yale researcher, for help in finding the secrets of longevity hidden within the giant tortoises’ genetic code.

After sequencing the genome of Lonesome George and an Aldabra giant tortoise, they were both compared to birds, mammals, and other reptiles. IGF1R, a genetic marker associated with longevity in humans, was theorized to be responsible for the tortoises’ extraordinary longevity.

Twelve copies of PRF1 were found in the tortoise genome, compared to most mammals who each only have a single copy of the marker. This genetic marker is associated with immune defense, energy regulation, and DNA repair.

Some scientists hope that extensive study of reptile genomes can aid in medical treatments, as they are known to regenerate whole parts. Dr. Kenro Kusumi, a professor at Arizona State University also believes that this research will aid humanity in its future space travel.

“The beauty of having these genomes is that it’s a great starting point to ask questions,” he added. “Even after death, Lonesome George is teaching us things — just like his ancestors taught Charles Darwin.”

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