New Mexican Tortoise Species
ROM-led research group finds new tortoise species. Click To Tweet I woke up this morning to see this headline in my local paper. The article was short and sweet informing us that the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto had its hand in discovering that a northern Mexican tortoise is in fact its own species. I found this very cool as I live not far from Toronto and have visited this amazing museum countless times.
So….its not like they discovered a new species previously unknown to human kind. But, it is very interesting in terms of biodiversity, that this species of turtle has been proven unique.
For 150 years, a trio of tortoises including the Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise and the Morafka’s Desert Tortoise found further north were thought to be a single species. This group of tortoises ranging from southern Utah and Arizona to southern Sonora have gradually been found to be three separate species with the now Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise (Gopherus evgoodei) announced as its own separate species status this year.
Prognosis for this New Mexican Tortoise Species
According to an article in the journal ZooKeys, this new Mexican tortoise species, Gopherus evgoodei , has the smallest range of these three tortoise species. It occurs only in the Sinaloan Thornscrub, and Tropical Deciduous Forest in the southern Sonoran Desert in Mexico. This area represents some of the most threatened habitat of any of the desert tortoises. So this new species’ conservation status is precarious but as not much is known about its ecology, its status can’t as yet be classified.
Ranchers changing native thornscrub to buffelgrass pasture poses the greatest threat to these creatures as it reduces the shade vegetation required to cool these cold-blooded creatures. Naturally protected areas in Mexico found within the range of G. evgoodei and partial re-purposing of private ranches as hunting and conservation reserves give hope that these creatures will survive.
Known for his role in ensuring the global survival of turtles and tortoises, Eric Goode was awarded the honor of having this new species named after him.
Edwards T, Karl AE, Vaughn M, Rosen PC, Torres CM, Murphy RW (2016) The desert tortoise trichotomy: Mexico hosts a third, new sister-species of tortoise in the Gopherus morafkai–G. agassizii group. ZooKeys 562: 131-158.doi: 10.3897/zookeys.562.6124