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Showing blog posts tagged with "From the Field"

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Answering Questions About Proconsul

News posts

Last year, William Harcourt-Smith, an assistant professor at Lehman College and a research associate in the Museum’s Division of Paleontology, blogged for the Museum about his research on the Kenyan island of Rusinga. Harcourt-Smith co-directs a paleontological field project on the island, which is best known as the site of the discovery of the first fossils of Proconsul, an early ape. Below is an excerpt of a longer story that Harcourt-Smith wrote for the Summer 2012 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.

Tags: From the Field

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Remembering Lonesome George

Q&As

On Sunday, the tree of life lost another member: Lonesome George, the famed last survivor of the Pinta Island tortoises (Chelonoidis abingdoni). Director of the Museum’s Center for Biodiveristy and Conservation Eleanor Sterling has been in the Galápagos for the past few days. She recently answered a few questions about Lonesome George’s passing and legacy.

What are you doing in the Galápagos?

Eleanor Sterling: The Galápagos National Park Service and the Galápagos Conservancy called together a meeting of experts on public participation in monitoring and conservation and I was invited as a specialist.

Who was Lonesome George?

Sterling: Lonesome George was a giant tortoise who was close to a century old and who was quite famous for being the last known representative of his species. And with his death, the whole species that was found on Pinta Island in the Galápagos is now extinct. There are other individuals who have some of the genes of Pinta Island tortoises, but he was last known individual to have the full genome of this species.

What role did humans play in the decline of his species?

Sterling: Seafaring individuals stopped by the Galápagos and collected tens of thousands of tortoises over the years. They packed their hulls with tortoises to use as food as they traveled around rest of world, because tortoises could last a long time without dying. Humans also introduced species such as rats to the islands where tortoises live, and those introduced species compete with tortoises for food or depredate on their young and eggs.

Tags: Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, From the Field, Q&A

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