Reviving the extinct Pinta tortoises may soon be possible. Scientists believe that using the genetics of a newly discovered close relative will bring the extinct species back to life.

The DNA of Chelonoidis donfaustoi, discovered on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Ecuador, closely matches the Pinta. In 2008, scientists gathered blood samples from more than 1,600 tortoises. The team discovered that 89 percent of the tortoises still retain some of the Pinta’s DNA. Breeding the tortoises in captivity could create tortoises with 95 percent of their lost ancestral genes.

“The size of this population is mind-boggling,” Adalgisa Caccone, a senior research scientist at Yale University, told the New York Times. “I am optimistic that some of these animals will have high conservation value.”

Linda Cayot, science adviser for the Galápagos Conservancy, mentioned that genetics is the key to conserving threatened species. If successful, the new breed of tortoises could be released within five to 10 years and help restore ecosystems. Apparently, tortoises spread seeds and nutrients, keeping the environment alive.

Scientists will study each animal to identify which has the nearest DNA equivalent to the Pinta before breeding programmes start in 2016. Nevertheless, Caccone remarked that this could possibly be accomplished in a month if only the budget was not so tight.

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