A new study titled “The desert tortoise trichotomy: Mexico hosts a third, new sister-species of tortoise in the Gopherus morafkai-G. agassizii group” has established the existence of an otherwise unknown tortoise species in Mexico, with the name Gopherus evgoodei given to it in honor of a conservationist, naturalist, and founder of the Turtle Conservancy.
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For many decades, scientists had been doubtful of the variability existing among desert tortoises in Mexico, but the new study carried out by researchers from the University of Arizona has established that a third species of desert tortoise actually exists in the country, with the finding published in the journal ZooKeys.
Tortoise populations spread from the Mojave and Colorado deserts of the US to mainland Mexico, with scientists observing that those from southern areas looked different from the others until recently when it was proven that they are in fact two separate species of tortoises.
Dr. Taylor Edwards, leader of the international team of researchers analyzed several tortoises between Sonora and northern Sinaloa over a 6-year period, eventually establishing that those from the south posses much shorter tails with flatter back shells.
Unlike its sister species, whose shells are medium to dark brown with greenish hues, while the bodies are dark gray to brownish-gray, the new tortoise is dark tan to medium-brownish with an orange cast. Again, the new tortoise species is found to live only in thornscrub and tropical broadleaf forests over 24,000 km geographic range.
Little is actually known about the behavioral inclinations of this new species but scientists continue to study it to know. The name Gopherus evgoodei was given to honor Eric V. Goode who found the Turtle Conservancy for his efforts and untiring labor to conserve the creatures.
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"He has contributed generously to the conservation of this species via the preservation of land in Mexico, and he actively pursues the conservation of turtles and tortoises on a global scale," the researchers said. "Eric sets an important precedent by complementing this taxonomic description with a tangible action that contributes to the conservation of the new species in its native habitat."