Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Lonesome George, a century-old tortoise

The giant tortoise known as Lonesome George, who died in 2012 at a tortoise breeding centre in the Galapagos Islands, was the last survivor of his species. Credit: Jad Davenport/NGC

Genetics

Genome of ‘Lonesome George’ reveals a tortoise’s secrets to long life

Blood from the world’s only remaining Pinta Giant tortoise yields clues about the genetic underpinnings of longevity.

The Galapagos Islands tortoise named Lonesome George was the last member of his species when he died in 2012 at an estimated age of more than 100 years. But he lives on through his genome sequence, which hints at the genetic factors underlying the extraordinary longevity of his kind.

A team led by Carlos López-Otín at the University of Oviedo in Spain and Adalgisa Caccone at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, sequenced and analysed DNA from George — who for roughly 40 years was the only known living specimen of the Pinta Giant tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii). The researchers also analysed the genome of another giant tortoise species, the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), which is native to the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

The team compared George’s genome with those of other reptiles, including small-bodied and shorter-lived turtle species. Their analysis showed that the giant tortoise lineages had genetic variants linked to DNA repair, inflammation control and cancer resistance — factors that could help explain how some of Lonesome George’s luckier relatives lived for nearly two centuries.

See also: ‘The secrets of Lonesome George

More Research Highlights...

Ember and thick smoke from bushfires reach Braemar Bay in New South Wales

Vast bush fires that swept across Australia at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 filled the skies with enough smoke to warm a portion of the atmosphere. Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Smoke from Australian fires turned up the heat in the southern sky

The catastrophic wildfires of late 2019 and early 2020 triggered a lingering temperature rise in a section of Earth’s lower atmosphere.
Visible and infrared images of the device in fully discharged and charged states

A display screen in its uncharged (top left) and charged (top right) state in visible light. The screen reflects one range of infrared wavelengths when uncharged (bottom left) and another range when charged (bottom right). Credit: M. S. Ergoktas et al./Nature Photon.

Optics and photonics

One screen, three images — some invisible in ordinary light

A graphene-based device can display several images simultaneously using a range of wavelengths.
Woman harvesting teff, Ethiopia

A farmer in Ethiopia harvests teff, a cereal. Small farms tend to have more-diverse landscapes than do sprawling industrial operations. Credit: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

Environmental sciences

Small farms outdo big ones on biodiversity — and crop yields

Large-scale farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
Diagram of the nuclear composition and electron configuration of an atom of xenon-132.

A xenon atom’s electrons (grey circles; illustration) have been observed and even manipulated as they shifted their position. Credit: Carlos Clarivan/Science Photo Library

Atomic and molecular physics

An atom shuffles its electrons at ultrahigh speed — and is caught in the act

Scientists capture the movement of electrons in a xenon atom, a phenomenon that lasts for a fraction of one-billionth of a second.
A canal running alongside banks of earth.

An irrigation canal in the dry and intensively farmed San Joaquin Valley of California. Solar panels over such canals are more efficient than those on dry land. Credit: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Renewable energy

Solar panels that throw shade on canals are an environmental win–win

Placing solar arrays over canals would prevent water loss and improve panels’ energy harvest.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links