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.

Just Posted

RibFest Kelowna’s top moments

Take it in one last time, until next year

Lake Country woman advocates for district to build community park

A plot of land has recently become available

Newly-aquired Rockets defenceman invited to NHL rookie camp

Jake Lee has been added to the San Jose Sharks Rookie Tournament in September

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

Church building has been a landmark on Summerland’s Butler Street

Neighbourhood in Lowertown has gone through changes over the years.

Okanagan MMA fighter captures middleweight belt at home

Jordan Cabrejos scores victory at XFC Unbanned, the return of mixed martial arts to Vernon

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

Man shot near Coalmont airlifted to hospital

A man was shot near Coalmont B.C. Saturday afternoon. The victim was… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

Most Read