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In the 1970s, only 15 Galápagos giant tortoises remained on Española Island, the southernmost of the Galápagos Islands. Efforts were launched to rescue this species from the brink of extinction. Population age structure (e.g., juveniles versus middle-aged versus elderly) can have a major impact on long-term viability of a species, but this information is lacking for Galápagos giant tortoises. Molecular tools (correlating individual age with the length of the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, known as telomeres) enable rapid assessment of age structure in some species. Researchers will determine if measuring telomere length in Galápagos giant tortoises provides an accurate age estimate of the population on Española Island. A rapid age-assessment tool is vital for global population recovery efforts for all giant tortoise species.

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University of Mississippi
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United States
Ryan C. Garrick, PhD
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