Fernandina Island is an active volcano that stands alone on western periphery of the Galapagos Archipelago and is reputed to be the largest pristine island on Earth.
Since 1906, evidence has accrued that a mysterious species of giant tortoise might exist on the island.
A single specimen of a species named Chelonoidis phantasticus (the fantastic giant tortoise) was collected by the explorer Rollo Beck during an expedition by the California Academy of Sciences in 1906.
Its fantastic nature is due to the extraordinary morphology of the male specimen, with extreme flaring of its marginal scutes and unusually prominent ‘saddlebacking’ of the front section of the carapace, unlike any other tortoise yet observed in Galapagos, or elsewhere on the planet as saddlebacking is unique to Galapagos tortoises.
Despite being known previously from only one specimen, the Fernandina tortoise has been considered to represent a distinct species.
Lead Image: Fernanda, the only known living Fernandina giant tortoise (Chelonoidis phantasticus), now lives at the Galápagos National Park’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island. Image credit: Galápagos Conservancy.
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