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

Okanagan Great Ogogogo Bathtub Race beats fundraising goal

Total money raised from the race series is $124,500

VIDEO: Rain doesn’t stop Penticton Terry Fox Run

Around 200 people showed up to raise money for cancer research Sunday

1955 Vees reign again at Classics hockey tourney in Penticton

The 1955 World Championship Vees took home the Moog Cup at minor hockey tournament

Road block was costly legal battle for Summerland

Resolving Garnet Valley dispute took six years

Coming Home: Penticton fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

VIDEO: Rain doesn’t stop Penticton Terry Fox Run

Around 200 people showed up to raise money for cancer research Sunday

Video: Rain doesn’t deter Terry Fox runners in Salmon Arm

Dozens showed up to continue the Canadian icon’s marathon of hope.

Athlete of the Week: William Buttar

Though he is little, William Buttar is fierce as he makes his introduction into the sporting world

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

Urban Agriculture: Food forestry rooted in thinking of the ecosystem

Columnist dives into Okanagan urban agriculture

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Most Read