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Scientists hold out hope that Galapagos tortoise Lonesome George will reproduce

January 21, 2011 |  3:26 pm

Lonesome George the Galapagos tortoise

Will Lonesome George ever become a dad?

Scientists are still hoping to mate the near century-old giant tortoise from the Galapagos -- even though efforts over the last two decades have failed.

The Galapagos National Park said in a statement Thursday that they are providing two new female partners for George, who is believed to be the last living member of the Geochelone abigdoni species.

George is estimated to be between 90 and 100 years old -- and could have at least 50 more years ahead of him. For the last 20 years, he has lived with two previous female partners, of the similar but different Geochelone becki species. The females laid eggs in 2008, 2009 and last year, but none resulted in viable offspring.

Scientists believe George may have a better chance of reproducing with his two new partners, of the Geochelone hoodensis species.

The two potential mates arrived on Santa Cruz island, where George lives, on Thursday from the archipelago's Spanish Island.

Genetic studies conducted by Yale University have shown that the newly arrived tortoises "are genetically closer ... more compatible, and could offer greater possibilities of producing offspring," the park's statement said.

The Galapagos island chain, about 620 miles off Ecuador's coast, is home to unique animal species that inspired Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution.

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-- Associated Press

Photo: Lonesome George in a 2008. Credit: Galapagos National Park / Associated Press

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