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.”

The study was published last week Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen seeks input about proposed composting facility

Organics composting facility proposed for Campbell Mountain Landfill

Netflix star Francesca Farago seen hanging in the Okanagan

Farago got her big break as a reality TV star in Netflix’s ‘Too Hot to Handle’ in 2020

Morning Start: Canada Has a Completely Indoor Town

Your morning start for Tuesday Sept. 29, 2020

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Mystery solved on who put up Mount Kobau blockade

Land owner says trespassing with quads and motorcycles threatens wildlife and old growth trees

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

Peachland resident finds severed bear paw on driveway

Tracie Gordon thought it was a Halloween prank, but it turned out to be a real bear paw

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read