'Extinct' turtle never existed06/04/2013 15:27:56 One extinct turtle fewer - Turtle species in the Seychelles never existed
April 2013. The turtle species Pelusios seychellensis, previously regarded as extinct, never actually existed according to a recent study. Scientists at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Dresden tested the turtle's genes, and discovered that the only known specimens were actually from a common African species.
Island turtles hardest hit
Despite an intensive search for this species, which was declared as "extinct" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), no further specimens have been found since those in the 19th century. "Consequently, it was assumed the species had been exterminated", says Professor Uwe Fritz, director of the Museum of Zoology at the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden. The Dresden biologist states quite clearly that this is not true. "We have examined the DNA of the original specimen from the museum in Vienna and discovered that these turtles are not a separate species."
Common in West Africa
Fewer species than was thought
"In the Seychelles there is therefore at most one mud turtle species that could be native. And even with this species we are still uncertain whether it really is endemic", says Fritz. So far, the biologists from Dresden have not been able to explore this possibility due to the incomplete sampling available.
"But what is certain even now is that the protection programmes for turtles in the Seychelles will have to be revised, so that truly endemic animal species are protected and the scarce funds available for species protection are put to good use", says Fritz in conclusion.
The relevant study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.