Lonesome George the Giant Tortoise’s DNA Reveals Clues to Longevity

Lonesome George, the Giant Tortoise, passed away at the age of 100 in a conservation facility in the Galapagos Islands in 2012.

The analysis of the DNA of Lonesome George, the last specimen of a giant turtle species –  who died in 2012 – has revealed genetic keys that explain the longevity of these animals.

Lonesome George—the last Pinta tortoise, or Chelonoidis abingdonii passed away at the age of 100 in a conservation facility in the Galapagos Islands in
2012. In his last years, he was known as the rarest creature in the world.

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0

Six years later, his DNA is helping scientists understand a number of things about Longevity and health.

A recently published study on George’s genome reveals that the tortoises have specialized genes for longevity, immune response, and cancer resistance that other vertebrate animals do not possess.

The results of the study appear in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Lonesome George is still teaching us lessons,” said Adalgisa “Gisella” Caccone, senior researcher in Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and co-senior author of the paper.

Researchers found a plethora of incredible things after studying Geroge’s genetics.

 

Scientists discovered that genes that have been linked to longevity in humans were also found in the tortoises and that those genes had undergone positive selection. This means that environmental pressures favored tortoises with genes for a longer life.

They also looked closely at 891 genes associated with the immune system and discovered that Lonesome George had duplications that are not present in the human genome.

Scientists also found tumor-suppressing genes, genes related specifically to DNA repair, as well as genes that help stave off oxidative stress, which is known to cause age-related problems.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/lonesome-george-giant-tortoise-reveals-cancer-fighting-and-longevity-genes-180970948/#RxFEUKVzfq8Jz1qE.99
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We had previously described nine hallmarks of aging, and after studying 500 genes on the basis of this classification, we found interesting variants potentially affecting six of those hallmarks in giant tortoises, opening new lines for aging research,” explained Carlos  Lopez-Otin from the University of Oviedo in Spain.

Via
Smithsonian
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Yale News
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